By George

Written by Wesley Stace
Review by Doug Kemp

Ventriloquists’ dummies can seem rather macabre and a little disturbing, and this novel has an element of the bizarre about it. It is set in the 1930-1940s and the mid-1970s in the charismatic Fisher family—four generations of ventriloquists and popular stage artistes. The main eponymous character is named after his grandfather’s successful 1940s dummy, who achieved fame in entertaining the Allied troops during the Second World War. George is growing up while developing his interest in the ventriloquist’s art and stage magic. He begins to uncover a series of secrets and hidden histories in his family, surrounded in apparent mystery like the tricks of magic that he assiduously studies. The story is one of family loyalty, relationships that go wrong and human imperfections, with some shocking surprises for George along the way about his family and their identity. The slightly seedy and shabby entertainers’ world of the 1930s is well presented, as is the private school where George reluctantly attends in 1973 and where he begins to uncover some of the hidden stories of his background and which then explain to the reader just what is going on and why he is there. This is the second novel of the author, who is more widely known as the music performer John Wesley Harding. It is a finely narrated and curiously moving tale.