A story of remembrance, desire, and the occult by one of Britain’s finest contemporary novelists.
The lapping of the waves was a lesson in mortality. Sometimes the corrective would work, and his turmoil would recede. The sound secured him, as the contemplation of a skull might make a penitent secure. And sometimes it was more than a corrective: it brought elation . . . “Live,” it urged, with each whisper of the water. “Live; live; live.” Leaning forward, Lucas repeated the words with too much fervor, to make sure that the lesson was not lost on me. This was his mission: not to help people to keep hold of the past, but to help them to live.
Jonathan Buckley’s latest novel, Live; live; live, is a subtly suspenseful and slow-burning story about the occult as a source of psychological and existential truth. Lucas Judd is a man with a gift: He hears the dead speaking. Joshua lives next door, just a boy when he first meets his mysterious, kind neighbor. But as he grows up, his instructive friendship with Lucas is gradually altered by desire: Joshua’s attraction to, then obsession with Erin, the much younger woman with whom Lucas lives. The nature of her relationship to Lucas is unclear and unclassifiable: Is it erotic, platonic, pedagogical? And is Lucas a sham or a kind of shaman? Is Joshua really a reliable witness? At the heart of this powerful and resonant novel are timely questions about narrative truth and timeless questions about life, death, and belief. There are no certainties in Live; live; live, only mutability, permeability, and the beautifully observed cadence of change.