Thursday, May 26, 2016

*Review* High Dive by Jonathan Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: March 8, 2016
Pages: 336


In September 1984, a bomb was planted at the Grand Hotel in the seaside town of Brighton, England, set to explode in twenty-four days when the British prime minister and her entire cabinet would be staying there. High Dive not only takes us inside this audacious assassination attempt—a decisive act of violence on the world stage—but also imagines its way into a group of unforgettable characters. Nimbly weaving together fact and fiction, comedy and tragedy, the story switches among the perspectives of Dan, a young IRA explosives expert; Moose, a former star athlete gone to seed, who is now the deputy hotel manager; and Freya, his teenage daughter, trying to decide what comes after high school. Over the course of a mere four weeks, as the prime minister’s arrival draws closer, each of their lives will be transformed forever. 

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.


I received a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.

In an epic demonstration of American ignorance of recent world history, I never knew about this Margaret Thatcher assassination attempt. I was alive when it happened. I was only an infant, but I was alive. I bet most of the world knows about the failed attempt on President Reagan's life in 1981 (not because the U.S. is just more important, but because the rest of the world is better informed about world politics in general). Anyway, I had to check to see if I was reading a fictionalized account of a real event, or if it was pure fiction (it's the first one!)

I liked the approach to the story, the way it was told from several different perspectives. I particularly liked Dan's and Freya's viewpoints (which make up most of the book). I even actually kind of wanted Margaret Thatcher to die in the explosion; seeing the fictionalized account of events in Ireland, I totally get why they'd do that and it even seems justifiable to me (and I'm a HUGE pacifist). But that is just how deep in Dan's head I was. 

I did find myself having trouble understanding what was going on during dialogue sometimes. I think it's likely a case of cultural differences, but there were times where the conversation seemed to be only half the conversation, as if I were eavesdropping on a telephone call, but both sides of the conversation were accounted for. This did impact my enjoyment of the story. How could I fully enjoy the story when part of the time I couldn't even understand what exactly was going on? 

Overall I give High Dive 3.5 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

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About the Author

JONATHAN LEE is a British writer whose recent fiction has appeared in Tin House, Granta, and A Public Space, among other magazines. High Dive is his first novel to be published in the United States. He lives in Brooklyn, where he is a contributing editor for Guernica and a regular contributor to The Paris Review Daily.

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