In 1984, the IRA planted a long-delay time bomb in Brighton’s Grand Hotel in attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet. High Dive is a re-imagining of the bombing, following IRA member Dan, the Grand Hotel’s deputy manager Moose and his daughter Freya.
High Dive is gripping from the very first page; we see Dan’s initiation into the IRA and we’re introduced to his elusive and enigmatic boss Dawson McCartland. Jonathan Lee ensures the novel is tense and disturbing from start to finish.
Moose and Freya dominate the story; their inner musings, hopes and regrets are put on display. Moose is probably the most interesting and developed character. He dwells on his failed marriage, the struggles and sacrifices of being a single dad and his declining reputation. His life now revolves around the hotel, particularly since Margaret Thatcher’s visit was confirmed.Unlike her dad, Freya is bored of Brighton and isn’t attached to the Grand Hotel. She’s reached a pivotal point in her adult life: she has to choose between going to university and settling for small-town life. Freya’s indecision about her future, her friends and her love life makes the build-up to the explosion all the more frightening to read. It’s a strange experience to read a novel when you already know the ending but you don’t know the whole story.
Dan’s point of view is offered less frequently, but we nonetheless witness his internal conflicts, political views and concern for his mother’s safety. His hatred of the British police and their brutality towards Catholics pushes him to make a change, but there are times when he’s not sure if bombing the hotel is the right path to take.
High Dive is a carefully paced, melancholic and thought-provoking historical novel. Lee writes the most ordinary and mundane details of daily life in such a stunning way that none of it is boring.