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Sweet Caress


Sweet Caress

Amory Clay, a British photographer, was born in 1908 and died in 1983 at her own hand. During her 75 years of life, she overcame many obstacles --- from a maniacally oppressive father to extreme male chauvinism in a field traditionally dominated by men.

It's no wonder that Amory chose a profession that would force her to butt heads with the opposite sex to make a name for herself. Her life started with a controversial birth whereby her given name of Amory, albeit an androgynous one, was selected by her father, who insisted she was a boy.

“Why did he say son? To spite his wife, my mother? Or was it some perverse wish that I wasn't in fact a girl, that he didn't want to have a daughter? Was that why he tried to kill me later? I wonder...” These words are issued by our lead subject, whose father, Beverly Vernon “B.V.” Clay, was a short-story author of nominal fame --- a failed writer of  supernatural fiction.

"SWEET CARESS is a story of a life that is driven to succeed as a direct result of a need to somehow overcome the sins of the past."

When it came to his daughter, B.V. had little imagination. He did whatever he could to suppress her sexuality and often took violent means to control her. Even the successive births of a fellow sister and later a brother did not ease their relationship as the mistreatment to which Amory was subjected early on in her life left scars that would never heal.

SWEET CARESS is a story of a life that is driven to succeed as a direct result of a need to somehow overcome the sins of the past. When her photographer uncle introduced her to a camera, Amory finally found her life's calling. In her 20s she was arrested in a German strip club where she was conducting a photo shoot. This international scandal put her on the map, thus launching her career.

Along the way, Amory felt a great deal of resistance from both men who were threatened by her and fellow women who were insulted by her choice of vocation. SWEET CARESS is filled with photographs that tie the story together, most taken by Amory herself. These pictures traverse world history, from the battlefields of World War I through those of Vietnam --- nearly 75 years of life as seen through the eyes of one remarkable British woman.

SPOILER ALERT! On its cover, SWEET CARESS is referred to as “a novel,” not a biography. There are no footnotes or bibliography. None of the photos are listed in the afterword or given specific dates, times or places. This is because Amory exists solely in the imagination of author William Boyd. His last novel brought the iconic character James Bond back to life. With SWEET CARESS, he has gone several steps farther and created a fictional woman and unique life that reads like nonfiction and a page-turner simultaneously. It is an ingenious bit of literature by the award-winning Boyd.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 30, 2015

Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

  • Publication Date: May 17, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • ISBN-10: 1632863332
  • ISBN-13: 9781632863331