The Lightning Tree
Emily Woof’s second novel, principally set in Newcastle in the 1980s, is a love story between Ursula and Jerry. Ursula lives in Jesmond with her mother - who spends much of her time campaigning on behalf of CND - civil servant father, and one of her grandmothers - who she has a bond with; while Jerry lives in Byker and sees himself as something of a class warrior. They appear to be a good match, but when Jerry heads off to Oxford to study politics, and Ursula undertakes some teaching work in India, their relationship is tested to the full. It’s a promising set-up – and some of the early scenes featuring Ursula hitting the pub with school friends ring true – but the novel begins to unravel after the lovers are reunited midway through; and a side plot featuring Ursula’s grandmother feels like an attempt to add some historical context to proceedings, but doesn’t really work. The dialogue is also flat throughout, the characters never engage, and by the end I couldn’t have cared less if Ursula and Jerry fell in love, or under a train.