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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heat-wave, holiday camps, ladybirds and ghosts - wonderful
Everyone who lived through the heat-wave of 1976 has their own memories of those months and `The Year of the Ladybird' brought back mine. Graham Joyce's writing creates such a clear sense of time and place that I was taken back to the near madness of those few months. Coincidentally I was actually living close to Charnwood Forest at the time, the setting for `Fairy...
Published 12 months ago by I Readalot

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3.0 out of 5 stars Snapshot of the cultural landscape and the supernatural don't meet seamlessly enough
I may have read too many novels by Joyce, whom I discovered earlier this year, too close together, because this particular outing had me latching on to his style and voice a little too easily, and I felt rather 'I've heard this one before', though of course I hadn't, but was experiencing the disappointment, rather than the comfort of, familiarity.

The Year Of...
Published 4 months ago by Lady Fancifull


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heat-wave, holiday camps, ladybirds and ghosts - wonderful, 10 July 2013
By 
I Readalot (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Year of the Ladybird (Hardcover)
Everyone who lived through the heat-wave of 1976 has their own memories of those months and `The Year of the Ladybird' brought back mine. Graham Joyce's writing creates such a clear sense of time and place that I was taken back to the near madness of those few months. Coincidentally I was actually living close to Charnwood Forest at the time, the setting for `Fairy Tale'. Living in the Midlands mean that I didn't experience the plague of ladybirds to the same extent as David but I definitely remember it.

David leaves home and goes to work in a holiday camp in Skegness for the season, it is the time when the traditional holiday camp is dying out. For some reason his parents are against him going there, but he is drawn to that seaside resort by a photograph he once found. Something obviously happened in Skegness that they don't want him to know, but what?

Once there he starts to see a strange man in a suit with a young boy, are they real, ghosts or in his head? Joyce also creates a wonderful cast of characters to work at the holiday camp, where they all have some scam going, just like the sitcom `Hi-De-Hi, but the scams don't come across as being funny in the same way, probably because Joyce's characters are not as likeable.

If you are looking at `The Year of the Ladybird' after reading `Some Kind of Fairy Tale' be warned, this is completely different. It is called a ghost story but the ghost element is very subtle. It is a coming of age story, education is over and life about to begin for David but he can't really begin his life until he has exorcised the demon and discovered the truth about Skegness and his past.

I am a big fan of Graham Joyce and am puzzled as to why he hasn't really broken through, he tells wonderful stories and tells them very well, he has won fantasy awards but many people won't consider his books to be `fantasy' he is really closer to the magical realism of Haruki Murakami, so if you like his books then you really should give Graham Joyce a try. I have recommended Joyce to a large number of people and so far none of them have been disappointed.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joyce does it again, 21 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Year of the Ladybird (Hardcover)
Graham Joyce has yet again taken a seemingly ordinary story and sprinkled it with his special brand of magic. Set in the hot summer of 1976, it tells the story of a young student working the summer in a Skegness holiday camp. Joyce beautifully evokes not only the feel of that long hot summer but also the tribulations and dilemmas of the youthful protagonist. In typical Joyce style, things aren't all they seem, encounters with damsels in distress and The National Front are only the tip of the iceberg. If you are already a fan of the authornthen you certainly won't be disappointed, if you are new to his work then welcome to the wonderful world of Graham Joyce.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another triumph for Graham Joyce, 24 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Year of the Ladybird (Hardcover)
Having read all of Graham Joyce's novels I find it hard to credit that his books are never, ever 'samey'. Instead each one is imbued with a different emotional aftertaste and with 'The Year of the Ladybird' he excels once again in capturing those balmy days of that long hot summer.
Anyone who remembers the summer of 1976, recalls that seemingly endless time when each day started and ended with cloudless skies, rocketing temperatures, drought warnings and hosepipe bans. It was a magical year and Graham Joyce captures the essence of it in this work, together with sinister overtones of forgotten memories, a recession and the National Front.
As usual his descriptive prose is sublime and his characterisation unparalleled. The protagonist is a student working in a holiday camp in Skegness, despite his mother and stepfather's grave misgivings. As always in a Graham Joyce book, nothing is quite as it seems however, who is the man in the blue suit carrying a length of rope and who is the small boy with him? The front cover proclaims 'The Year of the Ladybird' - A Ghost Story, it is all that and much, much more.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Coming of Age in Skegness Circa 1976, 24 July 2014
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Year of the Ladybird (Hardcover)
I've never heard of World Fantasy Award-winner Joyce before, but the coming-of-age plot of this (more or less) non-fantasy book caught my attention. It's a quasi-autobiographical story narrated by an English teenager who has just finished his first year of college. The year is 1976, and instead of working as a laborer for his stepfather's construction business, David takes a jack-of-all-trades hospitality gig at a seaside resort in Skegness.

Lounging on England's east coastline, about 150 miles north of London, Skegness has all the charm of a third-rate destination. The resort is a fading institution, catering to the outmoded variety-show holiday tastes of the working class who are soon to be ground under the heel of Thatcherism. As one might expect from such a setting, David is thrust into a colorful and bewildering cast of coworkers, including a jabbering Mancunian roommate, an Italian tenor, some terrifying kitchen workers, a beautiful dancer, a jolly impresario with a dark side, and dangerously dour cleaner married to a much younger attractive woman. Adventures with all these people ensue, and David learns a bit about life while the reader gets a nostalgic portrait of a bygone time and place.

Meanwhile, David is also being plagued by momentary glimpses of a mysterious man with a small child. This is the ghost of the title, and the reader discovers early on that his natural father had some connection to Skegness, and that the man in the suit has some connection to his father. The light comedy and romance of David's adventures complement the heavier tone of the more supernatural storyline, and the combination succeeds. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy coming-of-age plots or fiction set in 1970s England.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tense, beautifully written chiller capturing a hot dry 1976., 3 July 2013
By 
JK "Julie K." (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Year of the Ladybird (Hardcover)
The Year of the Ladybird is a graceful, highly descriptive and beautifully written journey into self discovery.

Graham Joyce is asking the question 'what happens when the past reaches out to touch the present?' and does it in a way the reader keeps turning the pages to find out more. He also does an excellent job of blurring the lines between fact and fiction which adds a surreal, nightmare quality to his writing.

The location of the plot is Skegness and the era 1976. The times are well captured with the authentic atmosphere adding a sense of texture and depth to the novel.

1976 was a particularly rough summer in terms of the scorching hot temperatures and lack of water in many areas. The combustible setting of hot and dry provides something of a clue as to the combustible nature of the plot as it begins to unfold.

Into the mix arrives a young man, fresh from his studies, looking for a summer job in one of the run down holiday parks. He's a man with secrets buried away in his past, much of which he's unaware of, and as he begins his new job it's just a matter of time before the skeletons begin to appear from out of his past and the plot takes off at pace.

Add some seriously nasty political factions, with extreme views, the building temperature, the decaying holiday park and a young man on the road towards a discovery that will rock him to the core and you're only just peeling away some of the layers.

I thoroughly enjoyed the read, quick and easy to read, with plenty of tension, shadow and shade and a novel I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys a darker, surreal mystery with some lighter horror elements.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That summer, 24 Jun 2013
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Year of the Ladybird (Hardcover)
1976 - the long hot summer, cloudless skies and drought, and a plague of ladybirds, swarming over everything. I was nine that year, and I remember the kids stamping on them in the playground (why?)

In Graham Joyce's new book, 1976 is the year that student David turns up in Skegness, looking for work at a run down holiday camp. Although David remembers nothing about it, Skegness was where his father died when he was three, and that event haunts the book as he settles down to a summer organising sandcastle-building contests, Glamorous Grannies and bingo. Also working at the camp are dangerous Colin, his bewitching wife Terri... and Nikki.

The book is like a broken chunk of seaside rock, tasting of sugar and sand and salt from the dunes. Joyce captures David's summer - growing up and being drawn back into his past, as well as wobbling on the edge of some real bits of nastiness. 70s nostalgia is quite popular just, but this isn't a nostalgic book - there's a streak of bitter right wing politics running through that rock as the National Front meet in the back rooms of pubs.

Just as in his last book, Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Joyce captures the essence of a part of England, and adds his own spooky otherness to it. As in that book, he looks at growing up and the hold of the past on us. It's a delicious read, all the better because not everything is ever clear: I wasn't sure, in the end what Colin was really up to the whole time, or the truth of him and Terri.

Well worth reading.

(In passing - you wait ages for a mystery-supernatural-coming-of-age story set in a rundown seaside amusement park in the 1970s featuring a young man on a summer job who's lost a parent, and then two come along at once - this, and Stephen King's Joyland. And both are excellent. Weird, or what?)
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5.0 out of 5 stars A superb novel...couldn't put it down, 1 July 2014
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A wonderful portrait of the long hot summer of '76 for sure but a 'Ghost Story'? Perhaps not, or at least only in the way that we are all haunted by our 'ghosts' from the past and in so much as the past has a remarkable way of catching up with each of us. Either way, this is an exceptional and remarkable book well up to the standard set, some time ago now, by the repeatedly outstanding Graham Joyce. The plot crackles with tension on so many levels just as the scorched English landscape crackled back then - approaching forty years ago now. Whether it be the mysterious semi-supernatural aspect, the 'coming of age' element or the all too disturbing account of the manipulative tendencies of the odious National Front, Joyce writes with a hand that is as accurate and knowledgeable as it is evocative. Whether, as he concludes, 'the future will be what we choose it to be, just so long as we carefully engineer the present', remains to be seen. As for the past moving 'like sand under your feet', that surely is true.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Now you see it, now you don't, 12 May 2014
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There is a magician in this book but not really the main character and not a magician as in the supernatural. Nothing is as it seems, in this novel except the vivid depiction of what it is like to be a student in fairly mild rebellion against family expectations, to be an infatuated young man, sorting people around him into the good and the bad. A question mark even hangs over the real 'supernatural'.
The sad thing about the book is that the political situation of the late nineteen-seventies described so well is being re-enacted around us thirty-six years later.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fast becoming a favourite author, 23 April 2014
By 
Celeste (Bedfordshire UK) - See all my reviews
I read the book Some Kind of Fairytail earlier this year and loved how the book flowed, the characters felt real even though the story was based around a magical setting, so I couldn't wait to get into this one.

In The Year of the Ladybird, even though the front cover states it is a ghost story, that is not what carries this novel along. In fact it didn't really need the ghost part in it at all to make it a great read.

The 1970's seems to be a time that is forgotten in modern literature, so it was nice to read something that for me actually modelled the society we live in today. The social side of racism, sexism and the end of an era for the traditional working class way of life was entwined well within the story. The tension between the characters was so intense in some areas my heart was beating with anticipation of what would follow and it had nothing to do with the ghosts.

Mr Joyce makes his characters interesting and that is what makes his stories work, you believe you are reading an account of someones past actions rather than the way in a lot of novels, life is just too easy and everything falls into place, this book has grit. At a number of points along the way I wanted to tell the main character how much of a fool he was and it is rare that I feel enough for a protagonist to care how they get on during the story.

I am now on the look out for the back catalogue of this author with anticipation.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Snapshot of the cultural landscape and the supernatural don't meet seamlessly enough, 9 Mar 2014
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I may have read too many novels by Joyce, whom I discovered earlier this year, too close together, because this particular outing had me latching on to his style and voice a little too easily, and I felt rather 'I've heard this one before', though of course I hadn't, but was experiencing the disappointment, rather than the comfort of, familiarity.

The Year Of The Ladybird is a growing to manhood book, set in the long, hot, dry summer of 1976. Set in a holiday camp in Skegness, amongst the seasonal workers, it follows the story of David Barwise, a young student, working the summer vac as a Greencoat. David has some history with the place, which is revealed over the life of the book, and is connected with the 'supernatural elements' in the publicity info - the book is billed as a ghost story.

In my earlier readings of Joyce, I felt that his finger on the cultural and political landscape of his settings, has been excellent, and that the other realities or fantasy settings are a kind of deepening of the more acceptable realities.

Unfortunately, this was not the case here. The closed, curious locked in a week-long time-warp and fake community world of the holiday camp and the turned in on itself world of the camp workers, were excellently done. So too, particularly was the sense of a very real and corrupt underside to that world. Seasonal work of that kind attracts all kinds of disparate people, and some have darker stories than others, to explain why they are there. The undercurrent of some of the dark happenings and rumblings from organised, far right, racist groups was menacing and potent. So was the slightly incestuous nature of sex and romance, within the 'family' of the workers within the camp. All this had me absorbed. However, the ghost elements of the man in the blue suit and the small boy, with their eyes like glass failed to convince this reader, and i found their tacking into the story an annoyance. The uncovering of David's real history with Skegness (which I'm sure I'm not alone in having cracked immediately) could I think have been managed better without them. I felt there were two books here - a well written one, evoking a time, place, and rite of passage of sorts, and a short ghost story. Either could have stood alone, together, they felt a little less than each would have been without the other
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The Year of the Ladybird
The Year of the Ladybird by Graham Joyce (Hardcover - 20 Jun 2013)
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