Liam is dead. He was found in the sea at Brighton. Veronica travels to retrieve the body and brings it back for the wake and funeral. After which she finds it difficult to sleep. So she starts to remember her grandmother Ada who married Charlie whose best friend was Lamb Nugent. There is some family mystery tied up here which Veronica tries to reconstruct from her unreliable memories: "All I have are stories, night thoughts, the sudden convictions that uncertainty spawns ... I wait for the kind of sense that dawn makes." (p 2).
Veronica is unhinged by grief. She is horrid about and to her patient husband and she all but neglects her daughters for months after Liam dies while she wallows in grief. It is all the fault, it seems, of whatever happened all those years ago when Liam and she were little children. And yet Liam doesn't appear to have been destroyed by it; damaged perhaps, but there are other things that could have caused him to find it difficult to settle down, as he has, and is his fondness for a drink a symptom or a cause? In the end the revelation, overlain as it was by outright speculative fantasy and undermined by Veronica's unreliability as a witness, never seemed sufficient to hang a whole book upon.
Nevertheless, it won the 2007 Booker.
Some great lives:
- "What amazes me ... is not the fact that everyone loses someone, but that everyone loves someone. It seems like such a massive waste of energy ... We each love someone, even though they will die. And we keep loving them, even when they are not there to love anymore. And there is no logic or use to any of this." (p 28)
- "I have all my regrets between pouring the wine and reaching for the glass." (p 39)
- "London was all flow, it had no edges" (p 78)
- She thinks that having children is just "feeding the grave" (p 79)
- "A silence happens, as quick as a door clicking shut." (p 209)
July 2018; 261 pages