If anything, Light Perpetual is even bolder than Golden Hill while in no way resembling it. It is a new departure – a brilliant, attention-grabbing, capacious experiment with fiction ... The novel opens with a poised, detailed and audacious description of the bomb itself exploding. There is a sprightly life to the writing that is in contrast to the appalling devastation it describes ... His elegant structure allows time to pass rapidly, imaginatively leaping 15 years at a stretch, leading us, engrossingly, through history ... the evocation of period is skilful, the smell of London buses spot-on ... Spufford is an artful non-dodger. He gravitates towards describing, with vivid exactitude, what other novelists might be relieved to duck ... Spufford is so comprehensively convincing that you keep unreasonably suspecting him of having experienced everything he describes. Extraordinary and ordinary things happen. Happiness, in his hands, writes multicoloured. But the poignancy throughout is in being reminded that, in his characters’ lives and in ours, even inconsequential moments matter ... What makes the novel original is that we orientate ourselves in it in a new way. The usual suspension of disbelief is replaced by a back-to-front sadness in being compelled to keep remembering that not a single moment – exceptional or mundane – in this literary soap opera happened. The imagined afterlife was stalled before it started ... Spufford is a lay representative of the diocese of Ely and has, as a writer, a Christian heart without ever being off-puttingly pious. Light Perpetual is an exercise in gratitude, enhancing the sense that it is a fluke that we’re here at all. It is a meditation on death, too, with an entertaining warmth that does not cancel out its melancholy. It may be less uplifting than Golden Hill but its serious purpose dignifies it. Fiction depends on “what ifs” and in Light Perpetual, fiction is a form of mercy.
... resonant ... Out of contemplative pauses in front of that plaque, Mr. Spufford has created an extraordinary novel in terms of its variety of character, symphonic language and spiritual reach ... This plot structure can sound formulaic, plodding even. And, certainly, the pitfalls of sentimentality are many in a story that imagines 'what might have been' for five dead children...But Mr. Spufford is no Whittier, and his characters, as they move decade-by-decade through their imagined lives, are no mere static types ... Even to tick off these characters and their stories in this fashion renders them reductive in a way that Mr. Spufford never does. He’s such a beautiful writer, casually stunning in his language and perceptions ... Along with incisively and often wittily describing the imagined progression—and setbacks—of his characters’ lives, Mr. Spufford also conjures up an impressionistic history of six decades of London life ... It’s all so engrossing. And, then, inevitably, a shattering awareness intrudes: these lives are even more heartbreakingly imagined than is typical in works of fiction. Again and again, a reader is drawn into their mundane particularity and, again and again, one remembers the explosion that cut those five futures short in 1944. In resurrecting lives that never were, Light Perpetual is a miracle, not only of art but of encompassing empathy—it becomes not only about the terribly brief lives of these five fictional children, but of the finitude that bounds all the living and the dead.
... an opening that is brilliantly written and somewhat misleading. As minutely knowledgeable details of the deadly build-up inside the V2’s warhead segue into theories of time and intimations of otherworldly dimensions, Light Perpetual looks set to explore an abstruse region where physics, philosophy and theology interact. Yet for the most part, despite an occasional fleeting sheen of mysticism, what follows is a solidly traditional novel ... Through his characters’ successes and setbacks, partnerships and realisations, Spufford displays shifting attitudes and altered assumptions about class, money, marriage, the media, music, sport, gender roles and race relations ... London’s history is ever-present. So is its diversity ... Allusions to light and time recur, sometimes suggesting transcendental significance. But the novel’s overarching feat is to resurrect with marvellous vitality not just its central five figures, but six transformative decades of London life.