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White Lightning

Justin Cartwright

8 Reviews

Rated 0

Prose: non-fiction, Fiction, Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

The Whitbread-shortlisted novel from the bestselling author of THE PROMISE OF HAPPINESS

A motorcycle messenger goes into a small park in London to paint the words 'White Lightning' on the tank of his bike. This is the beginning of an extraordinary novel. It is told over the space of a few months, and in these few months one man's whole life - his failures, his successes, his longing for peace and fulfilment, his loves and his tragedies - are recounted. These memories include his film Suzi Crispin, Night Nurse, and - the darkest moment - the death of his son, which has haunted him.

He inherits a small amount of money and buys a rundown farm in South Africa, where he dreams of creating an Arcadia. On the farm is a captive baboon, Piet, who becomes startlingly involved in his new life. He also has a love affair with a local woman, and becomes hauntingly involved with an African family of squatters. All the while the narrator contemplates his own life back in England and so the novel is also a sharp commentary on what Englishness means.

This is a novel about the human enterprise. It is surprising, tender, funny and utterly original.

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Praise for White Lightning

  • Brilliant, dazzling, unsettling; subtle and haunting; complex and multi-layered; deeply moving - Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday

  • A work of literary art, a mellow, beautifully constructed fable about the human hunger for goodness, it is by far the best thing Cartwright has done. - David Robson, Sunday Telegraph

  • One of the finest novelists currently at work ... An altogether stunning achievement - D.J. Taylor, Guardian

  • Hauntingly brilliant ... It is the best novel I have read this year. - Mick Brown, Daily Telegraph

  • Apart from being a profoundly serious writer, Cartwright can also be an abrasively amusing one. Scarcely a page of this book fails to yield some pleasure. WHITE LIGHTNING is a book of substantial merit. - Francis King, Literary Review

  • Beguiling. With this novel, Cartwright, a former Whitbread Award winner has put it all together - style, story, theme - to produce something exceptional. - Giles Newington, Irish Times

  • Subtle and moving...Cartwright weaves the story of the man and the baboon with a magicians's delicacy...White Lightning underlines the intelligence and breadth of imagination that this former Whitbread Novel of the Year winner brings to every single paragraph of his work. - Daily Mail

  • Justin Cartwright's new novel may well be his finest - in an already accomplished oeuvre. Wry, achingly true and profound without being sententious, it's a moving and bleakly funny look at life's hellish demands and occasional moments of happiness. - William Boyd, Guardian Books of the Year

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Justin Cartwright

Born in South Africa, Justin Cartwright lived in Britain after studying at Trinity College, Oxford. He worked in advertising and directed documentaries, films and television commercials, and wrote seventeen novels. They include the Booker-shortlisted In Every Face I Meet, the Whitbread Novel Award-winner Leading the Cheers, the acclaimed White Lightning, shortlisted for the 2002 Whitbread Novel Award, The Promise of Happiness, winner of the 2005 Hawthornden Prize, The Song Before It Is Sung, To Heaven By Water, Other People's Money, Lion Heart and Up Against the Night. His novel Look At It This Way was made into a three-part drama by the BBC in 1992, and he also published three works of non-fiction. He died in December 2018.

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