Since this is the first book by Graham Swift I’ve read, I can’t compare it to the popular Mothering Sunday, a Downton Abbey-esque novella set during a pivotal holiday in a grand household. Here We Are is at first sitting, a very English story. A summer season in a theatre in Brighton Pier brings together Jack Robbins (stage name Jack Robinson), his friend Ronnie, an aspiring magician, and Evie White. Evie answers the advertisement for ‘Magician’s Assistant Wanted’ and quickly falls for Ronnie’s ‘brilliant eyes’. Charismatic Jack is always watching from the wings though, and the trio of friends begins to tilt into lopsided longing. The story shifts between that fateful summer of 1959 to closer to the present day, where Evie reflects on her long marriage and longer bereavements.
Swift returns to the theme of defining moments in Here We Are, with the scenes and conversations of the story unfolding in a tinted, reminiscent nostalgia much like memory. It’s gentle and genteel, with skillful steering and a sense of opportunities missed.