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Likely Stories : Here We Are, by Graham Swift

Hi, I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.

Graham Swift won the Booker Prize for his novel Last Orders, and I had hopes for another win, but not for this year!  His latest novel is Here We Are.  This story is set in 1959 Brighton-by-the-Sea.  According to the dust jacket, there are three main characters: Ronni is a brilliant young magician, Evie, his dazzling assistant, and Jack, who is a born entertainer.  The language is wonderfully comic, but it requires some patience. 

Swift writes, “Jack paused in the wings.  He knew how to delay his entrance by just the critical number of seconds.  He was calm.  He was twenty-eight, but he was already a veteran, twelve years on the stage, not counting a year and a half in the army.  Timing was in the blood, think about it and you were lost. // He patted his bow tie, raised a hand to his mouth, as if to do no more than enter a room.  He smoothed back his hair.  Now that the house lights were down he could hear the gradually thickening murmur, like something come to a boil. // It did not happen very often, but now it happened.  The sudden giving way of his stomach, the panic, vertigo, revulsion” (1).  The story continues: “He was nowhere.  He was on a flimsy structure built over swirling water.  Normally he didn’t think about it.  Now his own legs might have turned to useless struts of rusting iron, clamped in sand.  Above all there was the concern that no one should see this, know that he suffered in this way” // “He needed someone to push him, to give the brutal shove in his back.  Only one person could ever do it: his mother.  No one would ever know this either.  Every night, every time, still his unseen shove.  He barely noticed it and barely thought to thank her” (2). 

Graham continues, “Ronnie would come to miss his father, rarely seen as he was, and would try to soothe the pain of it through his own philosophical reflection that surely he could only miss his father in the same way he missed the parrot: as one might miss an apparition and not a permanent fixture, as one might miss something that might not have been there in the first place.  But then wasn’t that true of everything? // And he missed the parrot” (24-25).

During World War II children were evacuated to the North of England,  “Ronnie was to arrive at a house in the depths of the countryside—he had never known countryside before—where, except for the blackout curtains and a few other minor privations and inconveniences, you might never have known that a war was going on. Evergrene” (31).  “Evergrene was unlike any house in his experience.  For just two people it was enormous.  (31). 

Here We Are, by Graham Swift, is a comic and strange tale.  I sensed a touch of Jonathan Swift at work in this satiric romp.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production or KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and Happy Reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.