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Coming of Age in Skegness Circa 1976,
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.