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The Lightning Field by Heather Jessup
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The Lightning Field (edition 2011)

by Heather Jessup

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102880,191 (3.9)3
Member:reluctantm
Title:The Lightning Field
Authors:Heather Jessup
Info:Gaspereau Press (2011), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:read in 2013, Read but unowned
Rating:*****
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The Lightning Field by Heather Jessup

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This started out so promisingly. First, the book itself: a soft cover with a heavy-weight dust jacket – quite different. Then, the location and time period: 1950s Malton (a suburb of Toronto). Then the fact that the male protagonist is designing the Avro Arrow, a controversial piece of Canadian history. PLUS – the writing is clear and engaging. But after the build-up to the Avro’s introduction and the female protagonist being hit by lightning, the plot just seems to disintegrate.

Read this if: you’d enjoy learning about the Avro Arrow “incident” (that some, to this day, label a ‘conspiracy’); or you’re from Malton or the surrounding area. 3½ stars ( )
  ParadisePorch | May 10, 2013 |
Heather Jessup's debut novel The Lightning Field tells the story of a family that is both ordinary and extraordinary. Set mainly in the Malton suburb of Toronto, the novel chronicles a decade and a half in the life of Peter and Lucy Jacobs and their three children, Kier, Andy and Rose, during the height of the Cold War. Peter is an aeronautic engineer hired after the war to work on defense projects that culminate in the development of the Avro Arrow aircraft. The day of the Arrow's unveiling, October 4, 1957, is punctuated by two unexpected events. Lucy, pregnant with daughter Rose, is struck by lightning on her way to the ceremony, and Russia launches the Sputnik. Lucy's recovery from the lightning strike is lengthy, and she emerges from the ordeal with scars and a heightened awareness of life passing her by. Anecdotally, she discovers that she was found and rescued by a priest, and later on her hunt for this priest grows into an obsession. Less than two years after the unveiling, when the Arrow project is abruptly cancelled by the governing Conservatives, Peter loses his job and Lucy must go to work. After a spell of unemployment, Peter finds a much less fulfilling job, loses faith in himself, and the Jacobs family falls prey to the kind of pressures that such a situation would naturally engender. The story continues through the 1960s and into the 1970s and includes life altering events of the sort one would expect. Peter and Lucy grow apart, the children grow up and form attachments outside the family. Jessup's detailed narrative does not produce surprises or generate suspense. Instead, she has written an engrossing tale of five individuals who are the product of their time. They are by turns generous and selfish, adventurous and wary, forward thinking and nostalgic; in other words, utterly contradictory and thoroughly human. To her credit Heather Jessup does not force any kind of authorial judgment upon the members of the Jacobs family, instead leaving it to the reader to decide if these people are worth getting to know. ( )
  icolford | Oct 24, 2012 |
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