Linda Grant’s big new novel at first seems straightforwardly modelled as a life story, tracking its protagonist, Stephen, from childhood into old age.
Grant traces a story that arches in time across the twentieth century into the twenty-first, zigzagging geographically between the United States and the United Kingdom. But what initially appears to be a sophisticated take on the family saga mutates into a sober meditation on political and personal identity and change. The novel’s trajectory arcs from idealism to cynicism, from love to violence.
The opening chapter invokes the family photograph album, a father looking at pictures and telling his children the tales connected to them. Stephen remembers himself aged nine:
standing outside the fur depot where his father works, his sturdy legs in shorts planted on Californian ground. Feet wide