“His excitement was the taper that ignited our sluggish souls, and drew us all towards him that summer; that summer when the light went out.”
Elly lives with her parents and older brother Joe in north London in the 1970s, and life is good. She makes friends with a girl called Jenny Penny, whose mother is a bit scandalous. She gets a pet rabbit and decides that god is a good name for a bunny. She’s a little disconcerted when her parents decide up sticks and buy a B&B in Cornwall but proceeds to make friends with the various residents who seem to become permanent, including Arthur, an elderly professor type who claims to know when he’s going to die, and Ginger, a faded actress who is regularly stoned. Her brother emigrates to New York and his diary places him in the World Trade Center on that fateful morning…
(it’s been a few weeks since I read this one, bear with me if my review is a little scatty).
Ummm. This reminded me a lot of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Emotionally absent father? Check. Weird older brother? Check. Crush on older brother’s best friend? Check. Carefree childhood? Check. So I loved the London part. Winman makes it very clear that we’re in the 1970s, not today, but that’s fine.
Then we move to Cornwall and we’re angsty and teenagey and Jenny Penny disappears and Joe moves to New York and it’s all a bit… odd. I think other people would find this section charming but I did not.
Then 9/11 happens and Joe isn’t answering his phone and we know that according to his diary, he must be dead, and Elly flies over and there’s a lot of sibling soul-searching without being very soul-searching, mostly the preemptory grief of the families/friends as they desperately hoped that their loved one had been spared, had been late for work, had got out quickly. All very moving.
Anyway eventually there is a resolution to all the suspenseful family tragedy and we are back in Cornwall and life is downright weird, with lots of people not remembering things, or being stoned or just off their rockers. Plenty of mid-life crisis going around.
What I am trying to say is:
great writing? yes
good characters, variety, people we care about? yes
plot? not so much although a few bits
good book? yes
great book that everyone in the world has to read right now or else? no.