- July 7th 2009
- 304 pages
- B-Format Paperback
- 978 0 955 6476
Seaside theatricals in all their seedy, flamboyant, innocent and heartbreaking glory
A wonderful, extremely original novel that manages to be achingly funny and touchingly sad – as well as rather sinister. I loved every minute
It’s the early 1960s and summer is starting, with the Beatles playing in New Brighton’s Tower Ballroom. While young Eddie’s parents are away, he has to help out at his Auntie Vi’s seaside boarding house. Here he shares a room with cousin Ray, a teddy boy who breaks his mother’s heart with his charm and fecklessness. Soon Ray is showing Eddie the local highlights: the amusement arcades, the parties and the girls – funded by his resourcefulness with Vi’s purse.
Meanwhile the house is taken over by the Rodcoopers, a flamboyant troupe of theatricals playing a season of Gilbert & Sullivan. Leading man Charles is very fond of Vi, and offers a chance of an unlikely new life in London.
Eddie only has eyes for one guest. Julia is bored, precocious, with dreams of becoming a model – and she can twist Eddie round her little finger. As Ray runs into trouble with the police, Eddie and Julia become involved in the sinister joke-shop Box of Tricks, with its under-the-counter packages, and Eddie learns more about the needs of others than he bargained for.
A holiday novel with a superb ensemble cast and touching family dynamics, Box of Tricks is poignant, hilarious and full of sunshine.
Jeff Phelps has caught the moment when the uptight spirit of the Fifties gives way to the hedonistic Sixties
With deceptive simplicity and skilful storytelling, Jeff Phelps takes us into the evocative world of the seaside of the early 1960s. Phelps’s characters – the landlady, the lad with good intentions who turns to crime, the larger-than-life actors who are staying in the boarding house, the sinister man who runs the joke shop – are always real people, their lives and motives opened up for our scrutiny with moving clarity