Now in paperback from the acclaimed author of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel The Clothes on Their Backs—a hugely satisfying, exuberant novel about the generation that came of age during the 1970s.
Stephen Newman’s children find it hard to believe that their father once dressed up in Marilyn Monroe’s furs, cooked acid at Oxford and lived with their mother, Andrea, in an anarchist collective. Quite often, Stephen finds it hard to believe himself. Born to immigrant parents in sunny Los Angeles, Stephen never imagined that he would spend his adult life under the gray skies of London, would marry and stay married and would watch his children grow into people he cannot fathom. Over forty years he and his friends have built lives of comfort and success, until the events of late middle age and the new century force them to realize that they have always existed in a fool’s paradise. Linda Grant’s utterly absorbing novel about the generation that came of age during the 1970s reveals the truth about growing up and growing older and once again displays her uncanny ability to illuminate our times.
Grant, whose The Clothes on Their Backs was shortlisted for the Man Booker, again focuses on American Rhodes scholar Stephen Newman over the years from 1950s England to near modern-day. Stephen, who lives in England with his British wife, is a hippie, a disappointed scientist who makes acid, and a successful, then obsolescent producer for the BBC. Told with a mixture of distance and intimacy, this novel assembles a sweeping history of both personal and cultural events: traumatic childhoods, late illnesses, Vietnam, 9/11. There's a richness of character in not only Stephen, who's rather unlikable, but in his magician son, antisocial daughter, analyst wife, even their friends. Grant has a talent for making emptiness meaningful in her characters silences are induced by shame, the impossibility of communication and understanding, the literal deafness that overtakes Stephen's son. Yet the novel ends feeling less epic and complex and more scattered and abrupt because the thread meant to hold it together Stephen's life is one of its least compelling aspects. It's a testament, then, that one finishes wishing Grant had given this family more room to breathe.