Thoughts by Jonathan Lee, Knopf 2016, 321 pages
Challenge: Tournament of Books (16 of 18)
Genre: Historical Lit?
Type/Source: Hard Cover/Library
Why I read this now: next in line (actually shorter of the two I was able to get from the library)
MOTIVATION for READING: TOB… starts March 8… Here’s the link to watch… (aw COOL. They have a countdown clock working. At the moment of my typing this sentence, we have 8 days yet to go.)
WHAT’s it ABOUT: High Dive is about the 1984 bomb that damaged the Grand Hotel, killing 5 and injuring 31. It is a fictional account of Dan who works (volunteers?) for the IRA as an ‘electrician’. He lives with his mother in Belfast Ireland and has two dogs. He has a torturous(-to-read-about) initiation “interview”. He prefers to work on the bomb creation side of the violence. The title High Dive is possibly inferred from the background of the second character we meet, Moose Finch. Mr. Finch used to be a diving instructor and is now Assistant to the General Manager for the fancy Grand Hotel in Brighton UK. He loves working with people, regrets not going to University when he had the chance, and is hoping he will be promoted to GM after the political conference being in October. Mr. Finch has a daughter named Freya. While trying to decide if she should travel the world or go on to Uni, she works the front desk of the Grand.
Dan checks in as a guest of the Grand Hotel three weeks before the conference so that he can plant a bomb under the bathtub in the room that Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, might be staying in.
WHAT’s GOOD: It’s a thoughtful book. It has a melancholy feel. Definitely character-driven not plot-driven.
What’s NOT so good: I kept getting distracted by wanting to look up more about the hotel, the IRA, Belfast, “the troubles”, RUC, maps of Brighton Beach – the Royal Pavilion – the train station. Saracens, Semtex, plimsolls. I slowly, painstakingly dragged myself through these pages at no fault of the book’s but of my distracted scatterbrained lack of ability to concentrate. Once I finally did manage to find focus, I fell into it and loved it.
This quote is on the book jacket:
A bold, astonishingly intimate novel of laughter and heartbreak, High Dive is a moving portrait of clashing loyalties, guilt and regret, and how individuals become the grist of history.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I’ve been to Brighton. I think this fact kept me dedicated to this book and also could be to blame for the distractedness. I’ve been to the Grand Hotel. I didn’t know it had been the site of an assassination attempt on Thatcher. I only needed find a restroom, as a tourist wandering around the beachfront. My memory of that ‘situation’ is clear; but that it was the Grand Hotel that provided me that sanctuary, I am not entirely positive. I think so, I’m pretty sure (based on location and possible path from the train.) I didn’t take any photos of the place. I remember it was full of people. Full of school-age children. It was a cold brisk but sunny bright day and I have very positive fond thoughts of Brighton. It made me feel off-kilter reading this, knowing I had been there not quite 30 years later. I would have been one year older than Freya in 1984.
Here are a few of my Brighton photos:
RATING: Four slices of shepherd’s pie.
“He could reel off the first 200 digits of pi.” p.142
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