The Blind Light by Stuart Evers review – two men in the sweep of history

From the cold war era to the war on terror, the corrosive effects of fear are closely observed in this portrait of a friendship over six decades

Stuart Evers’s hefty second novel was written before Covid-19 upended our lives but it is a vivid reminder that, while the current crisis might be unprecedented, the existential terrors it inflames are not new. For 40 years, from the advent of Soviet weaponry in 1949 to the collapse of the eastern bloc, the threat of nuclear war loomed large over the world. In a survey in the late 1950s, 60% of American children reported suffering nightmares about nuclear apocalypse.

Evers’s protagonist Drummond Moore is a shy, unassuming lad fresh from two years in the Ford factory at Dagenham in east London; he meets Jim Carter in 1959 when they embark on national service. Carter, wealthy and well connected, has just been sent down from Oxford. Their fellow conscripts are being posted to South Korea, Cyprus, Ireland, Sudan, but after Drum saves Carter from being fleeced in a card game, Carter returns the favour and secures them both cushy jobs in the Catering Corps.

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