The story of a love triangle between Jack, a showman, his fiancee Evie, and Jack's old friend Ronnie, a magician. The trio perform in a seaside British revue in the late 1950s, before everything changes.
The story unfolds as if we’re watching it through glass ... Graham Swift’s new novel is really Ronnie’s story ... At the novel’s climax, Swift gives us a description of Ronnie’s act which, because he’s made us wait for it, is as enthralling as anything that will be published this year ... With its focus on the marginalised suburban underbelly of England, the novel might have been written by William Trevor (I can offer no higher praise) ... The book wonderfully captures the experience of evacuation during the second world war, which offers a lens through which to study the relationship between growing up and displacement. It’s also a profoundly important story to tell in its own right: a better understanding of what this fracturing of so many childhoods did to people can help us to more clearly understand the latter half of the 20th century ... it has an archetypal quality, reminiscent of a folktale, that encourages the reader to think of the vanished stories their own family histories might reveal. I don’t know quite how Swift does it – the book is light, perhaps slight, and the story is all told at one or two removes so that it reads as though it’s happening in the next room. And yet it’s a magical piece of writing: the work of a novelist on scintillating form.
There’s a simple analogy to be made between magic tricks, which achieve their effects by hiding their workings, and fiction. It’s one that seems particularly appropriate to Swift’s recent novels, the exaggerated simplicity of which masks a vertigo-inducing emotional precipitousness ... His language, always plain, has become almost transparent ... Swift, unusually among his generation of English novelists, has never been afraid of cliché ... Some of the narrator’s descriptive touches in Here We Are...clearly belong to Swift. But most are those of his characters, expressed in a subtle free indirect style riddled with clichés, truism and the worn-out currency of everyday speech ... Despite its subject, there’s nothing extravagant or showy about Here We Are ... The book’s power comes precisely from the fact that it performs its magic in front of your eyes, leaving nowhere to hide. Barely noticing the mechanism, you wonder how he does it.
Here We Are is a paragon of the magic of compressed narration. How does Swift pull off this literary sleight of hand? ... Readers who hope for the curtain to be drawn back completely may be as disappointed as audiences looking for the secrets behind conjuring a parrot from thin air and then making it disappear without a trace ... once again, Swift has demonstrated wizardry in his ability to conjure magic out of ordinary lives.