Irish terrorists attempted to kill Margaret Thatcher (for real)

Irish terrorists

Relative newcomers to the political scene may not recognize the name Margaret Thatcher, who served as Prime Minister of the UK from 1979 to 1990. A Conservative who represented the right wing of her party, she crushed the trade unions, deregulated the financial sector, privatized state-owned companies, humiliated the Argentine military in the Falkland Islands, and weakened her country’s social safety net to the detriment of millions of Britons. Ronald Reagan regarded her as an inspiration.

On October 24, 1984, Thatcher narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by Irish terrorists at the Brighton hotel where she was presiding over a Conservative Party conference. Now a young British novelist, Jonathan Lee, has brilliantly reimagined the event in the current bestseller, High Dive.

High Dive by Jonathan Lee @@@@ (4 out of 5)

They didn’t consider themselves “Irish terrorists”

In High Dive, a young explosives expert named Dan, a promising soldier in the paramilitary Provisional IRA, the “Provos,” is a central character. Like others in the Irish independence movement, Dan thinks of himself as a freedom fighter. However, he’s motivated as much by a desire to wreak revenge against the British for their brutal occupation of Belfast as he is by any vision of a free and united Ireland. Dan would never consider himself a terrorist, though it’s difficult not to see him that way. Apparently, Jonathan Lee would agree. This novel isn’t likely to be popular in Ireland.

A latter-day tragedy

Two others join Dan as central figures in the story. Philip Finch, known as Moose, is deputy manager of the Grand Hotel, where the Conservative Party conference is scheduled to be held. Moose is an athlete, a champion diver, who now aspires to the top management post in the hotel. His clever, eighteen-year-old daughter, Freya, works at the hotel’s front desk, unconvinced that attending a university is right for her despite her high grades in school. The tale shifts from the perspective of one of these three to the other, with lengthy flashbacks along the way to tell their backstories. All three — Dan, Moose, and Freya — seem carried along by the strong current of events they can’t control. They are like characters in a Greek tragedy, under the sway of the gods.

Though Dan, Moose, and Freya are all products of the author’s imagination, the story of the hotel bombing is thoroughly grounded in facts. It’s a sobering condemnation of terrorism.

About the author

Jonathan Lee, just thirty-four years of age at this writing, is the author of three highly-regarded novels. Before High Dive, he wrote Who Is Mr. Satoshi? and Joy. Though British, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

For further reading

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