One of the best writers at work today, author of the internationally acclaimed Mothering Sunday, brings us another superbly conceived novel that, with astonishing economy, touches depths and evokes wonders--not least because its central theme is magic.
In the summer of 1959, at the pier theatre in Brighton, England, a variety show unfurls every night, held together by Jack Robinson, its master of ceremonies. At 28, already a veteran of the stage, he introduces the performers with some showmanship of his own, and he knows how to send the audience home happy. But the true stars of the evening are Pablo and Eve. "Pablo" is really Ronnie, a magician who prefers to be called an "illusionist," Jack's friend from army days; "Eve" is Evie, Pablo's "delightful, delicious, delorable" assistant. Through the summer season, their act shifts from mere stock trickery to truly unfathomable wizardry, with Jack providing the encouragement they need on stage--and the personal entanglement none of them saw coming. As the novel explores the essential experiences of their lives--apart and together, past and present and deep into their old age--we understand their enduring inseparability, bound together by a mix of truth and deception to which they all contribute.
Here We Are is both hauntingly moving and vividly comic. A love story involving more than one love, a vision of the world lingering at the edge of change and emerging slowly from the aftermath of war, it dazzles with Swift's own ability to conjure in a brief space the complexities, mysteries and moments of living magic at the heart of existence itself.
Saturated with images and metaphors that recur like melodies, this jewel of a novel by Booker-winner Swift (Last Orders) conjures the shared past of a group of entertainers who performed together in 1959. In seaside Brighton, England, 28-year-old showman Jack Robinson hires his old army buddy, the magician Ronnie Deane, to be part of his variety show. The enigmatic magician in turn hires the lovely Evie to jazz up his act, and soon puts an engagement ring on her finger. Jack's show becomes a success, with Ronnie and Evie's set as "the Great Pablo and Eve" the major attraction, though from the beginning, Swift hints that there will be no happy ending for the "lopsided trio." In Swift's trademark fashion, his close-third narration intertwines each character's perspective to construct the tragic story in seamless transitions, gradually revealing past transgressions and sources of pain as time bends back on itself. A now elderly Evie mostly looks on from the present, while chapters on Ronnie deepen Swift's bittersweet tone by following Ronnie's journey as a boy sent during the London Blitz in WWII to live with a beloved surrogate mother and father, from whom he learns his craft. Swift's brief, magical tale demonstrates one more brilliant example of his talent for pulling universal themes out of the hats of ordinary lives.