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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?)