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Friday Reads: The Year of the Ladybird

A bit of a cheat today, a bit of a tease…

Because I can’t really say too much about this book.

It’s only just been delivered. I’m only a third of the way through. We don’t publish till next June. But I’m loving this book. And it’s Friday. So…

The summer of 1976  was my ‘Dandelion Wine’ summer. If you’ve read Ray Bradbury’s superb novel of the same name you will know what I mean but suffice it to say, I was 11, I was about to go ‘to big school’, and it was a long, long, hot summer. A summer of droughts, standpipes and ladybirds…

And it’s also the setting for Graham Joyce’s (@grahamjoycebook) new book; The Year of The Ladybird.

So what do we have this year from the man who brought us his enchanting and dark take on our Fairy Tale heritage in Some Kind of Fairy Tale last year?

Our hero is a student, looking to make some money in the summer. He decides against working for his stepfather in his building business and heads off through the sweltering glare of the Summer heat to work at a holiday camp in Skegness as a greencoat. Helping the kids make sandcastles, judging the bathing beauty contests, what could be easier? The staff at the camp seem nice enough and he likes the intent to enjoy that radiates from the families having their holidays there. Enjoying them despite the low grade entertainment, despite the fleabitten donkeys, the staff scams ripping them off.

But there are other things not quite right this Summer. There’s Colin and his terrifying hold over his wife, there are the mutterings of far right politics as the country stumbles from economic crisis to economic crisis, there’s the crippling heat, the dust, the ladybirds everywhere. And then there’s the man in the dark blue suit with his son, glimpsed on the beach…

Graham Joyce has tangled me up in his spell again. His simple but beautifully wrought prose, his innate empathy for ordinary people trying to find their way through the complexities of life, his warm humour, his eye for the unsettling detail. He’s one of the country’s very best writers without ever writing like he knows it. His subtle but deeply felt writing snags me and holds me every time. I’m sorry to tease you with The Year of the Ladybird (but rest assured Graham is teasing me too  – just what lies behind the growing mysteries of this book?) but if you haven’t read Some Kind of Fairy Tale this could be the perfect moment to take a look at it. A bit of magic until the next spell is cast.