ABOUT THE BOOK
November 1944. A German rocket strikes London, and five young lives are atomised in an instant.
November 1944. That rocket never lands. A single second in time is altered, and five young lives go on – to experience all the unimaginable changes of the twentieth century.
Because maybe there are always other futures. Other chances.
From the best-selling, prize-winning author of Golden Hill, Light Perpetual is a story of the everyday, the miraculous and the everlasting. Ingenious and profound, full of warmth and beauty, it is a sweeping and intimate celebration of the gift of life.
I was smitten with the idea of this story as soon as I saw it. There have been times in my life, I have wondered where I would be if I had a different path in life.
In the opening chapter, a series of events has put five young lives, besides others, in a Woolworths store in Bexley. The War in Europe is still going strong with bombs dropped in populated areas are a regular payback.
Five children are in the local Woolworths with their mothers, when a V2 bomb hits the store, killing them instantly. The author explains the effects of the bomb, depending on where someone would be on impact, which put things into perspective.
The story stops there. The five lives are over, but it goes on to show what their lives would have been like if the bomb had missed them. The five children are revisited through the story for one day each every fifteen years right through their lives. Their lives cross each other both in school and beyond.
The five characters are very different and face challenges that history will put in front of them. They face trends, expectations, choices of career and partners, they become husbands, wives and partners, have or don’t have children, and grandchildren. They have good fortune and ruin and still cross each other lives even when they are older. They influence others and people live and die because of them. It is a fascinating story.
I wish to thank Net Galley and the publisher for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Officially, I was a writer of non-fiction for the first half of my career, and I certainly enjoyed scraping up against the stubborn, resistant, endlessly interesting surface of the real world. I like awkwardness, things that don’t fit, things that put up a struggle against being described. But when I was excited by what I was writing about, what I wanted to do with my excitement was always to tell a story. So every one of my non-fiction books borrowed techniques from the novel, and contained sections where I came close to behaving like a novelist. The chapter retelling the story of Captain Scott’s last Antarctic expedition at the end of “I May Be Some Time”, for example, or the thirty-page version of the gospel story in “Unapologetic”. It wasn’t a total surprise that in 2010 I published a book, “Red Plenty”, which was a cross between fiction and documentary, or that afterwards I completed my crabwise crawl towards the novel with the honest-to-goodness entirely-made-up “Golden Hill”. This was a historical novel about eighteenth century New York written like, well, an actual eighteenth century novel: hyperactive, stuffed with incident, and not very bothered about genre or good taste. It was elaborate, though. It was about exceptional events, and huge amounts of money, and good-looking people talking extravagantly in a special place. Nothing wrong with any of that: I’m an Aaron Sorkin fan and a Joss Whedon fan, keen on dialogue that whooshes around like a firework display. But those are the ingredients of romance, and there are other interesting things to tell stories about. My new book “Light Perpetual” (February 2021 in the UK, May 2021 in the US) is deliberately plainer. It’s about five twentieth century lives – the lives that five London children might have had, if they hadn’t been killed in 1944 by a V2 landing on a branch of Woolworths where their mothers were shopping for saucepans. I follow Ben and Alec and Jo and Val and Vern onwards through the decades, catching up with them for a day every fifteen years as they pass through the stages of adulthood and the city changes around them; and changes again; and changes again, this being an era of endless metamorphosis. It’s a book dedicated to the proposition that there aren’t any ordinary lives. It’s a book about how we live in time.