This is simply a splendid book. Full of convincing and realistic characters, their various voices convey not only their personalities but also a sense of time. Beginning with a comedian who finds a style only to lose so much else, the honest story of a young man who witnesses the unexplained develops a book held together by a familiar yet stunning sight, the aerial ballet of starlings. A murmuration of starlings is the unearthly sight of birds moving in harmony in patterns of light and darkness, which defies description. The leading characters live and love in well described settings, and in the case of Bella, a realistic life view of her own limitations. The combination of realism, romance and just enough unexplainable elements combine to make this a fascinating read. It is a historical novel with a twist, a series of stories linked by the pier where the characters work. The pier becomes at times almost another character, as it sturdily projects over the sea, an anomaly in later times as a Victorian relic.
I enjoyed the pace of this book, the pace and the tension as certain characters see what no one else can see, feel unique atmospheres. Those who enjoy historical novels for their understanding of people of the past will find much to savour in this book, as the setting of the pier comes to dominate their different lives and loves. This is a book of many layers; in one sense the narrative works through a series of incidents in people’s lives, in another sense, the links backward and forwards in time mean that the links are ambitious, but always seen from the viewpoint of the pier. Thus deaths, miracles and reimagining of the site are seen in different lights by the characters depending on their complete life view. There are moments of touching faith, religious and other, as glimpses of the dead come to the living. There are some shocking moments in this book; it is not for the sensitive reader, but it can also be gentle and insightful.
This is a complex book of many elements, layers and points of interest. The characters are relatable, the incidents described memorable, the decline of the pier and resort moving. It is a book which involves every reader at different levels. I was glad to receive a proof copy of this book, and it is a fascinating read which defies easy description.
I am especially keen on this book as a quote of mine appears inside the front cover! It is a complex read though, and perhaps not for holiday reading unless you enjoy a challenge while relaxing. I have a number of books to review over the next little while, some thanks to Richard at Heffers bookshop in Cambridge where I enjoyed an hour our two last Monday. Crime (Fictional) still dominates in that part of my old University city!