17th Jan 2011
We Had it So Good by Linda Grant
More than a portrait of growing up, Linda Grant‘s We Had it So Good is a wonderful novel. A well-captured landscape of the ever changing vista of life, select and careful arrangements of words evoke lucid images, sounds and feelings.
We follow Steven Newman over forty years, from the day he left America as a teenager in order to escape conscription, through his early student days at Oxford in the sixties; all idealism and visions of the future (‘I know how we could turn the whole world on’).
Until the inevitable happens, age creeps up, and the face in the mirror looks older than the face in your mind.
What happened, we wonder? How much of the hope encapsulated in the baby boomer generation actually exploded into reality, and how much dissipated in to the ether?
It’s not a novel of plot, focusing instead on the actions of everyday and the thoughts that accompany them.
Grant challenges the beliefs we have about our capabilities and captures the enthusiasm of youth and the belief that every generation is its own zeitgeist.
The positive, negative, ambiguities and fragilities of life are layered together like sedimentary rock.
A clever and enticing book that seems to start somewhere through your own life, and remains with you long after the closing sentences.
Want to discuss it further? It’s the first book being read for the Virago Book Club.