What a delightful slim story is Here We Are by Graham Swift. On the surface it’s a simple tale of a summer season at the theatre at the end of Brighton Pier in 1959. It’s a tale about a magician and his assistant. It’s also a tale about perception and delusion, truth and lies, what is real and an illusion.
When young magician Ronnie Deane gets a job for a seaside summer season, he advertises for an assistant. Evie White has experience in the chorus line but has never worked for a magician before. They are both on a steep learning curve. Their guide in Brighton is Ronnie’s friend Jack Robbins, compere, listed on the bill as Jack Robinson. ‘Some patter, some gags, some of them smutty, a bit of singing, some dancing, some tapping of his heels.’ As Ronnie and Evie, listed as ‘Pablo & Eve’, perfect their act, work their way up the bill, they go out as a foursome in the evenings with Jack and his latest girl. They change so frequently Evie can’t keep track of their names, instead thinking of them simply as ‘the Floras’.
This is principally Ronnie’s story, how at the age of eight he left his mother and was evacuated to safety in Oxford. There he found a new home, new parents and a magician to share all the secrets and tricks of the trade. By the end of the war, when Ronnie returns home to London and to his mother, he is a man who knows what job he wants to do.
Like all Swift’s stories, this can be read on many levels. At its simplest it is about a love triangle.
Only 208 pages, it is a short novel. The language is beautiful with not an unnecessary word. Not much may happen, but as the events of 1959 unfold Swift tells us the story of Ronnie’s childhood and how it impacts on the man he has become. The lies told to prevent hurt, the lies told for self-protection, lies told for unknown reasons, and some lies which may actually be the truth. As unknowable as Ronnie’s Famous Rainbow Trick. Unpretentious, at its heart lies a mystery that is in itself mysterious.
BUY THE BOOK
Here’s my review of Swift’s MOTHERING SUNDAY.
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
HERE WE ARE by Graham Swift #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5iB via @SandraDanby