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Originally published Saturday, August 9, 2014 at 6:05 AM

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‘The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit’: A young man sees his father’s ghost

In Graham Joyce’s novel “The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit,” a young man working in an English seaside resort sees visions of a man he believes is his father’s ghost.


Special to The Seattle Times

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‘The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit’

by Graham Joyce

Doubleday, 288 pp., $24.95

Dazzled by his own youth, 19-year-old David Barwise, narrator of Graham Joyce’s latest novel, spends the summer of 1976 (“the hottest summer in living memory”) lying, falling in love and hunting for traces of his dead father.

The failing seaside resort where he hires on was the site of his father’s suicide — the last place David, then aged 3, saw him alive. Now, between encounters with justly jealous husbands and bands of racist skinheads, David has haunting visions of a little boy accompanied by a man he soon realizes must be his father’s ghost.

Joyce, winner of multiple World Fantasy Awards and many other honors, is best known for his imaginative yet realistic novels depicting magical irruptions into everyday British life, such as “Dark Sister,” “The Limits of Enchantment” and “Some Kind of Fairy Tale.”

This novel’s characters, major, minor, and in-between, are as finely formed and evenly wound as Joyce’s readers have come to expect: consistent within themselves and in relation to their sun-drenched, provincial-minded world; seeming to move through the action on their own without needing heavy-handed shoves from the author.

The setting is a vivid past, one so far from dead that it shifts in the writing “like sand under your feet.” The plot is a voyage of inwardly directed discovery filled with grubbiness and poignancy, elation and regret.

This is a nearly perfect book. Its only flaw probably lay outside Joyce’s control: the loss in the U.S. of its original title, “The Year of the Ladybird.” Again and again scenes, actions and images resonate to the frequency of those missing words.

Like a poem, every one of this book’s parts play off each other; like an unforgettable refrain of days gone by.

Nisi Shawl reviews science fiction and fantasy for The Seattle Times.



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