Well, today I post my thousandth review, so I guess it’s sort of a red letter day. I thought I’d celebrate by reviewing a book recommended to me by John Warner, the Biblioracle. If you send him a list of the last five books you read, he’ll recommend a book to you. I thought it sounded fun and got this recommendation.
As it is about an attempted assassination of Margaret Thatcher in 1984, an actual event, High Dive didn’t seem like the type of novel that would appeal to me. Yet it is full of empathy as it examines the lives of several people affected by the bombing. Jonathan Lee was inspired by the rumors that a second man, besides Patrick McGee, who was arrested for the bombing, was involved.
That man is Dan, a young member of the IRA who specializes in explosives. We first meet him on his initiation at the age of 19, when he refuses to kill some dogs just because the IRA members tell him to. He volunteers for the big job years later without knowing exactly what it is and is taken aback when he learns it will probably involve the death of civilians.
The plot is to plant a bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton days before the start of a conference that Thatcher will attend. The bomb will be set to go off after she is in the building.
Moose Finch, the assistant general manager of the hotel, is proud that he managed to attract the conference away from the Metropole. His boss is retiring, and he hopes to be promoted to general manager if the conference goes well. Moose is an ex-athlete who seemed as a young man to have a brighter future. He blames his lack of opportunities on not being able to attend university, and he wants his daughter Freya to have the advantages he feels he missed.
Freya isn’t sure what she wants to do. She knows her summer job at the hotel bores her stiff. She is still trying to figure out her goals, learn who are her true friends, and work out her relationship to boys.
The tension of the novel comes from wondering what will happen when the bomb goes off, but we spend a lot of time getting to know the characters, including Dan, the bomber. The insights into the characters are subtle, their personalities interesting. I found this a compelling novel.