Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford - review by Anthony Cummins

Anthony Cummins

After the Bombs

Light Perpetual


Faber & Faber 336pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The death of a fictional character can mark the point at which a writer’s imagination has run dry – a corner cut in the search for pathos – but in Francis Spufford’s new novel, the opposite is the case. Light Perpetual begins in the fraction of a second before a German V-2 rocket, seen as in slow motion, flattens a south London branch of Woolworths one Saturday lunchtime in 1944. Five primary-school-aged children in the shop are about to die; what, the novel asks, if the bomb never hit and they lived?

After the bravura opening, described in a voice somewhere between David Attenborough and Adam Curtis, Spufford switches to his main business: delivering an immensely satisfying ensemble narrative that captures these five children in the youth, adulthood and old age they never had at roughly twenty-year intervals, from 1949 to 2009.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Art of Darkness

Cambridge, Shakespeare

Follow Literary Review on Twitter