cover image Here We Are

Here We Are

Graham Swift. Knopf, $22.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-525-65805-4

Saturated with images and metaphors that recur like melodies, this jewel of a novel by Booker-winner Swift (Last Orders) conjures the shared past of a group of entertainers who performed together in 1959. In seaside Brighton, England, 28-year-old showman Jack Robinson hires his old army buddy, the magician Ronnie Deane, to be part of his variety show. The enigmatic magician in turn hires the lovely Evie to jazz up his act, and soon puts an engagement ring on her finger. Jack’s show becomes a success, with Ronnie and Evie’s set as “the Great Pablo and Eve” the major attraction, though from the beginning, Swift hints that there will be no happy ending for the “lopsided trio.” In Swift’s trademark fashion, his close-third narration intertwines each character’s perspective to construct the tragic story in seamless transitions, gradually revealing past transgressions and sources of pain as time bends back on itself. A now elderly Evie mostly looks on from the present, while chapters on Ronnie deepen Swift’s bittersweet tone by following Ronnie’s journey as a boy sent during the London Blitz in WWII to live with a beloved surrogate mother and father, from whom he learns his craft. Swift’s brief, magical tale demonstrates one more brilliant example of his talent for pulling universal themes out of the hats of ordinary lives. (Sept.)