Eternity in their Hearts

British writer Francis Spufford talks about heartbreak and loss, hope and eternity, in his latest novel, Light Perpetual.

In November 1944, a German V2 missile obliterated a Woolworths store in South London, killing 168 people. Fifteen of that number were children under 11 years old. For 13 years Francis Spufford has, on his way to work each day, walked past a plaque commemorating the event. He says he has been increasingly haunted by the lives those children didn’t get to live. 

In Light Perpetual Spufford summons five lives out of the dust and ruin of that 1944 calamity and breathes life into them, giving Jo and Valerie and Alec and Ben and Vernon a future they didn’t get to live. This is a story of paths chosen or not taken, the joys and wounds that time gifts and inflicts. The story is a complex weaving of divergent time periods and characters who live unspectacular but always intriguing lives. There is murder and mental illness, heartbreak and loss of various kinds, as well as a meditation and honouring of the mundane aspects of our lives that Spufford clearly sees as essential and, perhaps, sacred. 

All the way along, he leaves open the tantalizing possibility of eternity.