Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford review – both a requiem and a giving of new life

Five years ago, Francis Spufford took us leaping over the rooftops of 18th-century New York in his prize-winning fiction debut Golden Hill. The superb opening sequence of his latest novelinvolves a pile of saucepans and the slowing down of time, so that we can watch what happens in a ten-thousandth of a second. It’s November 1944 and a Woolworths store on a south London high street is busy this wartime Saturday because there are saucepans in stock for the first time in ages. Mothers have young children in tow and we see them in the crowd: Ben, spindly kneed Alec, sisters Jo and Valerie and chunky Vernon, who is caught there – at just this moment, as we peer into the “hairline crack” opening in the expanse of time – like a statue, with his finger up his nose.C

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