Cashel Greville Ross experiences more of everything than most, from the rapturous to the devastating, from surprising good luck to unexpected loss. Born in 1799, Cashel seeks his fortune across the turbulence of multiple continents, from County Cork to London, from Waterloo to Zanzibar, embedded with the East Indian Army in Sri Lanka, sunning himself alongside the Romantic poets in Pisa. He travels the world as a soldier, a farmer, a felon, a writer, even a father. And he experiences all the vicissitudes of existence, including a once-in-a-lifetime love that will haunt the rest of his days. In the end, his great accomplishment is to discover who he truly is-which is the romance of life itself, and the beating heart of The Romantic.
This is the kind of novel that William Boyd does best, the tale of an Everyman caught in the waves of history, sometimes surviving by his wits, other times sinking by his shortcomings ... Boyd’s made Cashel into an infinitely pleasurable travel companion ... Boyd has enormous fun describing real-life people through Cashel’s eyes ... Steeped in both gentle melancholy and unfettered joy, as well as the recognition that allowing yourself to be buffeted by the winds of change makes life both alarming and interesting.
All this should be fun. But alas, The Romantic is a tired, spiritless piece of work, written as if Mr. Boyd was slogging dutifully through the formula he created and has previously used to better effect ... Who is Mr. Boyd’s target reader, one wonders? Anyone with a genuine interest in the Byron and Shelley circle, or African exploration, or literary London, will find nothing of consequence in these pages. And anyone looking for an engrossing love story will not find one in the conventional romance of Ross and his Raphaella.