Creating the lives that might have happened for five London schoolchildren killed by a V-2 in November 1944, turns into a detailed and convincing resurrection of working-class life over six decades. It’s not a long book but the span of time and emotion makes it feel huge. The story opens out into an expanse of warm and thoughtful empathy which I found powerfully emotional.
Bringing the past closer also brings closer the kids they were, the fat boy facing the smart-arse. They didn’t like each other then and there’s no reason they should like each other now. Vernon hasn’t forgotten being Vermin Taylor, or forgiven it. He’s glad to see the clever little bugger has grown up to be a bit of a mess. Home in the middle of the day; bedraggled; shouting at his kids; clothes one step up from pyjamas. Definite whiff of failure there.
‘So, what are you up to, then, these days?’ asks Vern with a different friendliness. ‘Between jobs?’