I have a thing about piers. As soon as I step onto one with all that planking where the sea is visible through the slats I always get a rush of the sense of history of the place far more than I would with a building. I remember very clearly standing on the beach whilst a burning Brighton Pier blazed in an incredibly sombre recollection. I spent many late afternoons in Brighton watching the swallows swoop and swirl around the ruins of the structure. The pier in Shanklin where I now live was destroyed in the big storm of 1987, washed into the sea taking with it generations of history and memories. All this, the sense of history and the growth and decline Robert Lock has incorporated into this debut novel. And the swooping of the swallows has given this book its title and its starting point. This is why I was delighted that Legend Press sent me a review copy.
The swallows’ movements recall a number of historical points of the life of the pier and its inhabitants at an unspecified seaside resort. We begin magnificently in 1863 with the recent erection (pun intended) becoming the home of bawdy music hall comic Georgie Parr, an evocative characterisation and a life more than tinged with tragedy. We move to 1941 where the pier is used as an observational outpost and the swallows become involved in a wartime miracle. There’s a less successful mid-60’s section with the pier coming to the end of its golden era and onwards to the 1980’s where local archivist Colin Draper seeks to solve a pier-based mystery whilst coping with the declining health of his mother in a painfully sensitive, touching section and then on again to present day where loose ends are tied (perhaps a little too tightly).
The undeniable quality of this book lies in its great sense of time with the pier standing as a central focus to these very human lives. The writing is of a high quality and Robert Lock shows he has what it takes to become a significant writer of historical fiction. Plot-wise the combination of detective story with the odd touch of magical realism doesn’t quite flow quite as masterfully as other elements in the book but this is a strong debut and would be a thought-provoking quality holiday read. I polished off a chunk of it on the seafront in front of Ryde Pier and it felt very fitting to Robert Lock’s vision of the British seaside, past and present.
Murmuration was published by Legend Press on 12th July 2018 . Many thanks to the publishers for the review copy.
5 thoughts on “Murmuration- Robert Lock (Legend Press 2018)”
Oh, how I love a pier. My nan used to take me onto Hastings pier when I was a child. A bag of pennies and half pennies to play the one armed bandits, while she sat either reading a book or doing some knitting whilst chatting with her friend Mrs Baker, who always came with us. (they never used each other’s first names, it was always Mrs Cloke and Mrs Baker)
There was a bingo hall, the amusement arcade with the one armed bandits, no visor games yet. Those machines that told your future, little gift shops. At the end of tbevpier was a ‘ballroom’, I saw a lot of groups perform there in the 70’s.
A trip to Brighton is never complete without a walk along the pier and only a couple of years ago, we went on Eastbourne pier for the first time.
There is something about a pier, not sure what it is. We always take a walk on Yarmouth pier, there’s usually people fishing there. And Ryde pier, where you feel as though you are halfway across the solent.
I like the sound of this book. I will keep a look out for it.
Love the review.
I think its all to do with the history of the seaside and this book really does convey this well. Thanks for sharing your memories, Kay.
When I came over 18 years ago, the first trip we made was to the Albert Dock…It was newly refurbished, perhaps too new for locals. Nowadays the place is heaving, with a new museum nearby…..Iwas always wondering where is the pier…InLiverpool shipping is still very active and the river needs a navigator, to get any ship safely in…..So that’s the reason for no pier…Nearest is in Southport. Very= pretty. There is one closer, perhaps a mickey taking as Wigan has no sea, perhaps it is a nickname for a landmark:)
Interesting premise. The piers, only if the could talk, the history of different feet treading on them…
Absolutely- Monika and this book does convey this history well. Thanks for sharing this.
Pingback: Looking Back….Looking Forward – reviewsrevues