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A gripping re-imagining of one of the most ambitious assassination attempts against the British establishment from one of the finest novelists of his generation.

‘A meticulous and gripping reimagination of the Brighton bomb’ Observer, Best Novels of 2015

In September 1984, a man calling himself Roy Walsh checked into The Grand Hotel in Brighton and planted a bomb in room 629. The device was primed to explode in twenty-four days, six hours and six minutes, when intelligence had confirmed that Margaret Thatcher and her whole cabinet would be staying in the hotel.

Moving between the luxurious hospitality of a British tourist town and the troubled city of Belfast, and told from the perspectives of a young IRA explosives expert, the deputy hotel manager and his teenage daughter, High Dive is a taut and tender retelling of one of the most ambitious assassination attempts against the British establishment.

Reviews

Lee’s powerful novel is an extraordinary performance: vividly written, painfully human and fully fleshing the inner lives of its characters.

Sunday Times

High Dive did for the Brighton bombings what Garth Risk Hallberg's overhyped City on Fire attempted to do for the New York City blackout - it's a multivoiced epic that builds towards a stunning finale. I loved it.

Alex Preston, Observer - Best Novels of 2015

Achingly good … Satisfyingly tricky when it comes to speeding up and slowing down, keeping readers off balance, teasing them about when what’s already irrevocable is actually going to happen … At his best – and he is at it often – Lee displays a nimble metaphysical wit and a verbal ingenuity on a par with Martin Amis … In High Dive, the ticktock means more than the boom… The novel’s last, almost whispered word about the bombing’s carnage is left to stand among the most devastating observations ever made about terrorism: “Someone had considered this fair”. It is Jonathan Lee’s great achievement to have written, on this of all subjects, one of the gentlest novels in memory.

The New Yorker

Jonathan Lee [is] a wordsmith of incomparable eloquence…High Dive is a work of serious and thoughtful integrity.

Independent

An ingenious and original mixture of the domestic and the political, set in the days leading up to the Brighton bombing of 1984. At its heart is a father-and-daughter relationship that feels uncannily real and wonderfully touching.

David Nicholls, Observer, Summer Reads

Achingly good … on a par with Martin Amis … In High Dive, the ticktock means more than the boom… The novel’s last, almost whispered word about the bombing’s carnage is left to stand among the most devastating observations ever made about terrorism: “Someone had considered this fair”. It is Jonathan Lee’s great achievement to have written, on this of all subjects, one of the gentlest novels in memory.

The New Yorker

Hauntingly atmospheric ... Lee is quite brilliant at excavating the disappointment of characters constantly chasing lost opportunities.

Guardian

Devastating ... Inspired ... We make so many complex emotional investments in the lives of Lee's characters that it takes a monk's restraint not to flip to the very end of the book before you get there.

New York Times

High Dive is a novel so smart and compassionate and beautifully written that it asks for total immersion. A reader will hold her breath for long, perfectly-paced stretches, and she will surface, dizzied, at the end.

Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies

The novel is full of gentle humour: its tones are mostly warm and compassionate…High Dive is a moving and charismatic novel…It succeeds, through its multiple sympathies and scrupulous empathy, on its own terms

Financial Times

Engrossing … Effortlessly switching between Belfast and Brighton in stylist prose that perfectly captures the tension and tenor of the times, it’s highly recommended.

Mail on Sunday

Novels about terrorism aren’t usually this tender. It’s Lee’s way of bringing home the cost of bloodshed ... A tragi-comic tale full of warmth and muddled humanity.

Metro

High Dive is a fascinating look into a troubled past. In taut scene after taut scene, with a fine style and wit among the carnage, Jonathan Lee does service to history and the novel both.

Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End

Lee masterfully ekes poetry out of everyday life…As a character study High Dive is faultless. Freya, Moose and Dan exist, you know them, they are gloriously and fully realized.

Stylist

Lee has crafted an absorbing character piece that feels startlingly real. Even though the dread of the looming disaster is always there, the main characters’ stories are given plenty of room to breathe and their mundane struggles with everyday life are extremely relatable. High Dive is funny, troublesome and poignant, and will cement Lee’s reputation.

Herald

Lee is a virtuoso storyteller, combining the skills of a historian, a reporter, a criminal psychologist, and most importantly, a close observer of the complexity of everyday life.

Yiyun Li, author of The Vagrants

The language [is] beautiful from the start ... He has a real gift for writing ... beautifully written throughout.

BBC Radio 4 Saturday Review

Hauntingly atmospheric ... Lee is quite brilliant at excavating the disappointment of characters constantly chasing lost opportunities ... The protagonists generate a static energy, gathering charged particles of the particular ... The IRA used a long-delay detonator on the Brighton bomb and Lee employs this modus operandi himself, cleverly allowing their plot to provide his. Having planted this device we are left with the drama of waiting, a surface tension that holds the somewhat diffuse elements together. There are echoes of Beckett ... High Dive is, of course, a historical novel, detailing events that took place more than 30 years ago, yet there is always a sense of immediacy to the prose ... In the mundane, Jonathan Lee finds the deep end, where all are diving for dear life.

Guardian

I loved Jonathan Lee's High Dive . . . It is brilliantly observed.

John Niven, Independent

Lee is a brilliant writer.

Elizabeth Day, Observer - summer reads

Marvellous ... one of the surprises of the book – which opens with the brutal initiation into the Provisional IRA of Dan, the third of the three protagonists, and ends with the front of the Grand being ripped out – is that it is frequently funny.

Independent on Sunday

“What would it feel like to fall from a great height? In this highly accomplished third novel, this is a sensation that characters experience both physically, high diving at the local swimming pool, and metaphorically, plunging into despair when they lose their most uplifting relationships. The absorbing plot moves between Belfast and Brighton, culminating on 12 October 1984, when a bomb exploded at Brighton’s Grand hotel, where Margaret Thatcher was staying during the Conservative party conference. The author powerfully uses a prismatic range of perspectives: Dan, an IRA bomber; Moose, the deputy manager of the hotel; and Moose’s 18-year-old daughter, Freya. The political is intricately interwoven with the personal and the novel’s most moving sections chronicle the implosion of Moose’s marriage and morale. Lee dives deep into the minds and hearts of his characters, skilfully shoring up “the private moments history so rarely records”.

Observer

Jonathan Lee may not be a name tripping off many readers’ tongues today, but my guess it soon will be ... In an age when anonymity is a struggle, Lee seems to have mastered the art, with biographical details scant on this British-born writer who currently lives in New York. Such lack of context makes even more intriguing that his third novel, the utterly absorbing and beautifully wrought High Dive, should be a reimagining of the events surrounding the bombing of The Grand Hotel in Brighton by the IRA during the Conservative Party conference in 1984. The novel weaves its way towards the tragedy, between Belfast and Brighton, and in the company of three main protagonists: Dan, a young IRA convert, the long-rumoured but never located second bomber; Freya, a bright school-leaver working at the Grand Hotel; and her father Moose, the aspirant Assistant General Manager.

Mariella Frostrup, BBC Radio 4 Open Book

What is clear straight away is how good Lee is on character…Lee has a memorable turn of phrase…He can be funny too…Deftly captures the boorishness of a Tory conference.

Spectator

A beautifully realized novel about the intertwining of loyalty, family, ambition and politics. Lee’s truest antecedent is not The Day of the Jackal, but Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent … Its narrative works like the long-fuse bomb that is placed fairly early on in the proceedings, slowly ticking away under the floorboards of the reader’s mind, getting louder and more fraught as the detonation approaches … Although the matters at hand – terrorism, mortality, failure – are weighty, High Dive carries itself with an admirable lightness … Long after the bomb goes off, long after I closed the book, I found myself wondering about Moose and Freya and Dan. That persistence of interest is a testament to how fully realized those characters are, and how astonishingly well executed this novel is.

Washington Post

An idiosyncratic imagining of the Brighton boming of 1984 . . . The scenes of everyday life in the hotel are rich in the comedy of the mundane: the hopes and petty quarrels neatly contrasted with the approaching terror, the actors in the drama ignorant of what the reader knows is coming.

Daily Mail

A completely absorbing novel about the lives of people who struggle in small and massive ways. Lee’s writing is poignant, fluid, and very funny. Above all else it feels honest – you can see yourself in all of his characters. I really did love this book, and I’m still thinking and worrying about it.

Evie Wyld, author of All the Birds Singing

With wry wit and profound tenderness, Jonathan Lee’s High Dive highlights the tensions---between hope and heartbreak, struggle and surrender---at the intersection of the mundane and the momentous. A bold, thrilling triumph of a book.

Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife

In the run up to the bombing Lee masterfully fleshes out the three characters, moving back into their respective histories and creating around them a painfully real world populated by unfulfilled dreams (Freya), ill health (Moose) and odd jobs (Dan)…Lee masterfully ekes poetry out of everyday life…As a character study High Dive is faultless. Freya, Moose and Dan exist, you know them, they are gloriously and fully realized…For sheer beauty of description and engaging personal tone my recommendation is High Dive.

Stylist

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 …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.

Culturefly

In fluent, agile prose Jonathan Lee takes on one of the more famous assassination plots in recent history with striking evenhandedness and depth. His novel offers a funny, gripping and ultimately tragic view into the life of a young IRA man and the dear price he, and his victims, pay during the dark years of the Troubles.

Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

Lee is a writer of concision, humour, wisdom and danger.

Colin Barrett, author of Young Skins

High Dive is both wistful and very funny. It is also genuinely lyrical. But more than anything, what distinguishes it from so many other novels is its rare sincerity.

Alexander Maksik, author of You Deserve Nothing

[Full of] sensitivity to the complexity of human motivations . . . memorable.

Literary Review

Every assassination is a plot with personal history and national history intertwined, action and inaction offsetting each other, misstep transforming into opportunity, luck submitting to fate. Jonathan Lee is a virtuoso storyteller, combining the skills of a historian, a reporter, a criminal psychologist, and most importantly, a close observer of the complexity of everyday life. What a thrilling new novel.

Yiyun Li, author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

A work of thoughtful integrity.

Independent

It’s 1978. Meet Dan, a Belfast boy who wants to join the IRA. Now meet Freya, a young woman who works in the Grand Hotel in Brighton. Dan checks in. So does Margaret Thatcher. We know what will happen.

Evening Standard, 'Paperbacks of the Year'

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099592280

    July 15, 2016

    Windmill Books

    384 pages

    RRP $22.99

    Online retailers

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    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
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    • Boomerang Books
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    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9780434023370

    November 15, 2015

    William Heinemann

    384 pages

    RRP $37.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

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