This is the book that broke my Covid-induced reading slump. From Booker Prize-winning author Graham Swift comes a beautifully written, engaging, and concise novel. Elements of magic, mystery, and memory permeate this story of three young performers at a Brighton music hall, poised between the heyday and the demise of this style of entertainment.
It's the summer of 1959, and something magical can be witnessed at the end of the pier in beach town Brighton, England. Jack Robbins, Ronnie Deane, and Evie White are performing in a seaside variety show, starring as Jack Robinson, the compere comedian, and The Great Pablo and Eve, a magic act. By the end of the summer, Evie's glinting engagement ring will be flung to the bottom of the ocean, and one of the trifecta will vanish forever. All three friends begin their path toward the end of Brighton's pier early in life. Evie and Jack's mothers are always trumpeting the support that is trademark of stage mothers, while Ronnie's mother sends her son out in the child evacuations to Penny and Eric Lawrence for safety from the London blitz. It's within the safety and love of Evergrene, the Lawrences' estate, that magic creeps into Ronnie's life for the first time and starts the intricate intertwining of fate, chance, and show business. Magic and reality share the stage in this masterfully devastating story that pulls back the curtain on the power of love, family, and the touchstones of our memories.