Francis Spufford: Lives They May have Led
The opening chapter of Francis Spufford’s new novel Light Perpetual will leave an indelible mark on the imagination of anyone who reads it. Over just a few pages, Spufford smashes time to smithereens, parcelling it into a stop-motion sequence of images and creating a kaleidoscopic depiction of what must have happened when a German V2 bomb landed on a London department store on a grim November day in 1944, killing all 168 people inside. In the novel that follows, Spufford imagines the futures denied to five of the young working class children killed by the bomb, and reconstructs the lives they might have lived.
Using a structure reminiscent of the Seven Up! television documentary that tracked a cohort of young people through their lives, Spufford revisits his characters for a day each in a sequence of years leading up to 2009. The Observer’s Kate Kellaway described it as ‘a brilliant, attention-grabbing, capacious experiment with fiction’ – a feat all the more impressive given that it is only Spufford’s second novel. The author joins us in Edinburgh to discuss his joyful, merciful act of restoring five young people to fictional life.