Peroxide and Paracetamol

Adam Mars-Jones

  • BuyUnexploded by Alison MacLeod
    Hamish Hamilton, 340 pp, £16.99, July 2013, ISBN 978 0 241 14263 9

Hindsight is the way we make sense of the world, and the events and impressions of the morning are reworked any number of times before evening, with the result that any historical novel is bound to be as processed as spray-on cheese. What makes a narrative come alive is the Stendhal touch, a flick of the tail that propels the reader up past the rapids to a pool where things haven’t happened yet and Waterloo is just a place name. Alison MacLeod’s new novel sets out to defamiliarise almost the opposite situation, an inevitable conflict that didn’t actually happen. Unexploded takes place in Brighton over the course of the year 1940-41, when an invasion by Hitler’s forces was universally expected and the town likely to be his first port of call.

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