Taking us inside one of the 20th century's most ambitious assassination attempts - "making history personal", as one character puts it - High Dive moves between the luxurious hospitality of a British tourist town and the troubled city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the height of the armed struggle between the Irish Republican Army and those loyal to the UK government.
Jonathan Lee has been described as "a major new voice in British fiction" (Guardian), and here, in supple prose that makes room for laughter as well as tears, he offers a darkly intimate portrait of how the ordinary unfolds into tragedy.
©2016 Jonathan Lee. Recorded by arrangement with Knopf, an imprint of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. (P)2016 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
"With wry wit and profound tenderness, Jonathan Lee's High Dive highlights the tensions - between hope and heartbreak, struggle and surrender - at the intersection of the mundane and the momentous. A bold, thrilling triumph of a book." (Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife)
"High Dive is a fascinating look into a troubled past. In taut scene after taut scene, with a fine style and wit among the carnage, Jonathan Lee does service to history and the novel both." (Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End)
"High Dive is a novel so smart and compassionate and beautifully written that it asks for total immersion. A reader will hold her breath for long, perfectly-paced stretches, and she will surface, dizzied, at the end." (Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies)
Gerard Doyle is one of my favorite narrators, and his work here is superb as always. But after listening to the first three hours of this book, I had to abandon the effort. The problem, in a nutshell, is that nothing happens. The narrative goes on and on in great detail about characters who are not especially interesting and whose role in the plot is never made clear. I have no doubt that, somewhere along the line, a story will actually develop, but my patience was exhausted. If I still can't discern a plot after investing three hours of listening time, I prefer to cut my losses and move on to another book. A disappointing experience.
High Dive is based on the 1984 explosion of a bomb at an elegant English hotel where Margaret Thatcher was staying. But the book is a character study rather than a thriller. Jonathan Lee does a superb job of creating sympathetic characters, including Danny, the reluctant young IRA member from Northern Ireland who helps plant the bomb; Moose, the aging athlete (and high diver) who is now the assistant general manager of the hotel, and Freya Finch, Moose's daughter, fresh out of school and trying to choose what she wants from life. The novel shifts among the viewpoints of these three characters, focusing more on their romantic longings and their family relationships than on their politics. The book is full of small surprises that illuminate the characters' lives, starting with the opening scene, in which Danny is given an IRA loyalty test involving two beautiful dogs. And Danny's dealings with his mother, who lost her husband to the violence of British soldiers, results in one of the more shocking scenes in the book.
The author's perspective is broadly humanistic, underscoring the suffering inflicted by both sides in the Northern Ireland conflict. His focus on the human side of his characters, especially Danny, emphasizes the good in everyone, even those struggling with how to do the right thing.
The narration was good, although at times I wished there were more differentiation among the voices of his characters. Overall, a very enjoyable listen.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
In maybe the strangest ever labeling of a debut novel's genre, Audible classifies HIGH DIVE as Humor Fiction. The novel is set in 1984 and centered around a luxury hotel in Brighton, England, and the IRA's plant of a bomb to detonate in a hotel room therein which the criminals think is near the one in which Prime Minister Thatcher will stay upon her visit a few weeks thereafter.
The three primary characters are an 17-18 year old Irish guy from the streets of Belfast, a middle-class 17 year old British girl who works part time for the luxury hotel in question. While the teens travel in very different worlds trying to find each's respective fit, the girl's dad, Moose, who is having a mid-life existential crisis, suffers a significant physical event.
It's a thoughtful and well written novel. Really good, not great.
The publisher's book description says it's based on real events, so I'm not giving away a spoiler by saying that the bomb's explosion, a key moment in the novel, results in casualties. Thus, in spite of Audible's categorization of this novel as "Humor," you shouldn't expect a barrel of laughs.
It's a very thoroughly written account of psychological dive into an assassination attempt on one side and into the great expectations on the other. I loved the language, the detailed explorations into daily lives of the heroes. The story, though, left me uninvolved.
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