A producer. A novelist. An actress. It's summer 1968—a time of war and assassinations, protests and riots. While the world is reeling, our trio is involved in making a disaster-plagued, Swingin' Sixties British movie in sunny Brighton. All are leading secret lives.
It would be hard to think of a living novelist whose books encompass more history, more settings, more professions, more varieties of individual fate, than William Boyd ... For readers who go to fiction for the pleasures of panoramic sweep, elaborate plotting and the company of a humane, genial intelligence, he has become one of the preferred masters. His new book, Trio, delivers much of the same set of literary goods, with perhaps a lighter touch than usual ... More than just a clever authorial performance, the structure underpins a sustained preoccupation with the tension between fate and chance, art and accident, script and improvisation ... Its settings (especially the pubs) are sharply observed. Its humor and melancholy are comfortingly English, premised (like the old British sitcoms it also resembles) on the supposition of a helpless collective commitment to folly. It’s a satisfying production, entertainingly retro, like a ride in Talbot’s beloved vintage Alvis coupe ... It seems churlish to wish — though I did — that the mission had been a touch more dangerous.
For all its brio, Trio hits some serious notes. It has a whiff of the ambivalent Graham Greene about it, waffling between the worldly gravity of The Quiet American and the sober farce of Our Man in Havana — as in fact the whole of Boyd’s celebrated oeuvre does, with its admixture of social, comic and recent-historical drama ranging light-footed all over the world ... They all think and act like characters in a screenplay (Anny: 'It was crazy — stop! She admonished herself. Get a grip. . . . She hated herself for thinking this but she wanted to see him again — just once more.') But they are in a screenplay, in a sense, and the movie Boyd has made of them may not be Bergman or even Capra, but it is, as I began by saying, diverting.
Talbot readily admits that in the movie world 'ordinary norms of behaviour did not apply.' Still, the surprises he faces on his latest project are beyond anything he has encountered before. To say more about them would give too much away. But it’s a ton of fun to see Talbot navigate the mayhem. Boyd can also be trusted to get his atmospherics right ... Where some writers come at the 1960s too reverently...Boyd brings a lighter skepticism to the era and reminds us that not everyone was tuned into the turbulence of the times ... Trio, with its wickedly accurate period detail and darkly wayward farce, is Boyd at his most entertaining.