The Year of the Ladybird by Graham Joyce (Gollanz)
SKEGNESS is a holiday resort in Lincolnshire on the east coast of the UK which I visited many times as a child.
In the past it was a hugely popular seaside town, especially with working class visitors from the East Midlands.
But since the arrival of cut-price overseas holidays in the 70s ,it has suffered a decline and now looks rather faded and jaded.
However, it provides a superb and unusual backdrop for The Year of the Ladybird which ticks many boxes – it is a ghost thriller, gentle romance and a social commentary.
It is set in the scorching hot summer of 1976 and the protagonist is David, a 19 year old student, who takes a summer job a holiday camp.
He is a very much an innocent who comes to Skegness to escape the overtures of a pushy step-father who wants him to join his business rather than go to university.
But there is another reason – David has vague memories of a trip to Skegness with his real father who died when he was three.
And clouds very quickly appear on the horizon, David catches glimpses of a mysterious man and child on the beach who then disappear; he gets involved in a reckless affair with a married woman and is naively dragged into attending a National Front meeting.
The author skilfully brings all these strands together and the reader is captivated by this multi-faceted coming-of-age tale.
There is also a splendid and very realistic insight into life in a British seaside holiday camp which prompts the odd chuckle along the way.