Graham Joyce begins his novel, The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit, in 1976 during the hottest summer in England’s living memory (according to the narrator). Joyce’s writing caters to that sultry, almost lethargic sensation of heat and stickiness. His words flow onto the page like a languid wave yet embraces and encapsulates the reader into the moment. The moment is a bleak seaside resort at Skegness on England’s east coast; this is where David Barwise has sought summer employment.
David is an unreliable narrator. There is a sense that he is holding something back from the reader. Perhaps he does not realize this, since there is an admitted mystery in his life that he is trying to uncover. David visited Skegness once long before with his biological father when he was three years old. He remembers little of the trip. It was his last time with his father. His father died on the beach from a heart attack, so he’s told, but David does not remember the event.
Now a college student, David forewent better work with his stepfather to work through the summer at the seaside resort. He is likeable and relatable. He witnesses everything around him almost with child’s eyes. He relates himself to Alice and he is suddenly in Wonderland. Everything is hyperreal, bright, larger than life, and also scary. His observations and internal commentary bring the musty seaside resort to life showing all the hidden intrigue, allure, and darkness behind the scenes that those on holiday cannot see.
With everything happening around him, David grows increasingly troubled by fleeting glances of a man in a blue suit with a little boy on the beach. They always seem to be moving away. These visions grow to haunt David as he attempts to work well, stay out of trouble, and maybe make some connections.
The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit is an enjoyable and very worthwhile read. I am enamored with Graham Joyce’s writing. His sentences flow onto the page controlling the cadence of the story. His words always seem well chosen for the scene as if not one of those words could be replaced. Joyce is capable of slowing the pace of his story to extend the narrator’s embarrassment or quickening the to pace show the intensity of a fight. The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit is a novel I could not wait to get through so I could learn the mystery of the man in the blue suit, but I was also saddened to have it end, as I had grown quite fond of David’s observations and company. Graham Joyce’s novel is one to read slowly and savor. In the end, all I can say is “wow”.
Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.