Friday, January 29, 2021

The Blind Light by Stuart Evers, a British family saga of the nuclear age

Doom Town is the catchy yet grim nickname for a real site in Cumbria, England, used for simulating the aftermath of a nuclear strike. In Evers’ spacious and unusual saga, Drummond “Drum” Moore and Jim Carter run training rescue missions there in 1959 for their National Service, an experience that shakes them deeply and casts a shadow on their families henceforth. 

Evers excels at depicting the men’s strong, identity-shaping bond, which doesn’t quite surmount their class differences. Following their military commitments, Drum works at a Ford factory in suburban London and raises two children with wife Gwen, a former barmaid, while the arrogant, posh Carter weds and lives in rural Cheshire. Years later, Carter persuades Drum to take over his neighbor’s farm, thus keeping Drum’s loved ones secluded and safe, but in doing so, Drum loses sight of other family problems. 

The novel spans six decades, and the later generation’s stories aren’t as interesting, but the moody setting, rich in details reflecting social change in Britain, well suits this tale of lives eclipsed by fear.

Blind Light was published by WW Norton in October (I reviewed it for Booklist's 9/1 issue; reprinted with permission).  Some other notes:

I've seen reviews that call "Doom Town" a fictional location, but it was a real site, located at Millom Airfield in Cumbria. You can see a 1-minute video showing training missions there, as part of the British Pathé collections (the clip dates from 1955).  As the video mentions, and as the novel depicts, many men did a stint there at the end of their National Service, "learning all there is to know about rescue methods in the atomic age."


  1. Thank you for the review of an intriguing story.

    1. It definitely was intriguing, the setting especially.