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The Disappearance Boy [Kindle Edition]

Neil Bartlett
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £16.99
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Book Description

Reggie Rainbow has found the perfect profession for someone who likes to keep himself to himself: it’s his job to make sure that some things stay out of sight and out of mind.

Reggie Rainbow is an angry young man who treads the backstage corridors of down-at-heel theatres for a living. Childhood polio has left him with a limp, but his strong arms and nimble fingers are put to perfect use behind the scenes, helping the illusionist Mr Brookes to ‘disappear’ a series of glamorous assistants twice nightly.

But in 1953, bookings for magic acts are scarce, even in London. So when Mr Brookes is unexpectedly offered a slot at the Brighton Grand, Reggie finds himself back out on the road and living in a strange new town. The sea air begins to work its own peculiar kind of magic, and, as the bunting goes up in the streets outside the theatre for the Grand’s forthcoming Coronation spectacular, Reggie begins to wonder just how much of his own life is an act – and what might have happened to somebody who disappeared from that life long ago.

Set in the tarnished world of 1950s Variety, The Disappearance Boy is a masterful and dark tale of love lost and found; of blood, sweat – and all the other secrets that are kept hidden away behind those red velvet curtains.

Product Description


Bartlett is a seductive narrator. The Disappearance Boy is written in an intimate, conspiratorial tone familiar to readers of his Costa-nominated novel, Skin Lane . Bartlett is particularly good at evoking the faded glamour of the theatre and the brittle egos that compete offstage ... An entertaining routine and Bartlett pulls it off with aplomb (Independent)

This a properly engaging novel, blessed by vivid characters, a fascinating subject and an expertly evoked setting. Excellent (Daily Mail)

Neil Bartlett can conjure up a world like no-one else. This time, it's the lost world of 1950s seaside variety, and within that world he spins a tale of unlikely self-discovery that is by turns mysterious, tender and utterly compelling (S. J. Watson)

This book and its enchanting characters had me under their spell. I was bewitched (Sheila Hancock)

Neil Bartlett's ability to vividly evoke hidden lives is uncanny (Jake Arnott)

One of England's finest writers (Edmund White)

Book Description

A man. A woman. A disappearance boy.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 342 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1408850443
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (31 July 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #113,558 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Having just read 'My Policeman' by Bethan Roberts, which features a triangular relationship set in Brighton during the 1950s, depicting gay experience in a homophobic era, I was amused to find in this wonderfully engaging novel a similar set up: a triangular relationship set in Brighton during 1953 featuring gay experience etc etc. Both novels catch our idea at least of what life was like in those bleak post-war days when the country was broke and food was rationed. There, of course, the resemblance ends.

This novel gives us a detailed insight into the tawdry world of the theatrical illusionist. With a background in theatre, and having done his research, the author seems to know exactly what he's writing about. One of the pleasures of this book is the concrete detail with which everything - the act, the theatre backstage, the immediate environs of Brighton and Hove - is visualised and described, giving us a vivid sense of place, almost of hyper-realism. But it's the story of the three characters that really count. This is told in a traditional fashion, described by an omniscient narrator who occasionally addresses the reader directly, with little recourse to interiority. Brilliantly realised, this works well.

The central character is Reggie. He's an orphan, brought up in a children's home near Brighton, given a limp by childhood polio (shades of Maughan's 'Of Human Bondage' here), in his early twenties, gay, with little experience of sex or love, solitary and rather odd. Having lost his mother when young, he 'talks' to a gravestone that he's selected as being hers - a sad metaphor for his desperately lonely self and sense of abandonment. But Reggie is a good-hearted, self-sufficient, quietly attractive character.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Story 3 Sept. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was an excellent story which has made me want to read more Neil Bartlett.

He captured live in Coronation year very successfully and the reader readily empathized with the hero, the Disappearance Boy.

The writer's love of popular theatre is evident from the narrative but this is no nostalgia trip, he shows us all the unpleasant backstage life in its grimness including the exploitation of underpaid staff and performers..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and unusual 2 Sept. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An original and fascinating mystery set in the early 1950s centred around a stage magician and his assistants , if you know Brighton you will find this very interesting
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as amazing as Skin Lane but worth a look for a ... 28 Aug. 2014
By Adam D. Dunn - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A charming, engaging book that shares a vibrant story of theatre life in 1953 England. The hero 23 year-old Reggie works as a stage-hand with a magician and wanders through life looking for his place and purpose as a gay man in 1953.

The book was well done, a little simplistic, but a much more worthy addition to Bartlett's literary canon than his first two books. Not as amazing as Skin Lane but worth a look for a very pleasant distraction.

The errors in the ebook copy I bought from Amazon on Aug 19, 2014:
location 558, 16%, "Reggie always hold his breath."
location 1282, 37%, "to find what he was looking before before he was due back"
location 2501, 73%, "After all, every seaside pleasure has it mechanics, its point of friction and purchase"
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it! 11 Sept. 2014
By Kindle Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
keeps you guessing until the reveal. satisfying and surprising. carefully drawn characters full of nuance. scary when characters you have come to love seem doomed. meticulous attention to details of a famous day and place. stage magic and real magic. touching tender triumphant.
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