When We Were Alive by C J Fisher

When we were aliveBobby Baker the Illusion Maker is a magician’s moniker more suited to a children’s birthday entertainer than a modern day Dynamo but it’s this lack of pretension that is a fitting metaphor for these semi-autobiographical stories tracing the lives of three generations and their battle to preserve the innocence of truly living from becoming a memory of lives now lost.

In Bobby Sinclair, C J Fisher has created a romantic character whose determination to realise his conjuring aspirations allows him to shed the skin of youthful awkwardness and find true love.

What triggers and defines life are recurring themes as we move from the 1930’s generation of Bobby and his war damaged parents through to the hedonistic yet vapid landscape of Vegas and into the modern day and the poignant thoughts of a lonely boy who communicates with his long lost mother through regular letters containing a mix of the mundane and profound that encapsulate the extremes of everyday existence.

Myles is the scribe grappling with the facts and futility of cancer and its impact on those around him while displaying sensitivity and strength to those less fortunate. His tangible maturity is in marked contrast to William, who in a downward spiral of despair, wallows in a disparate 1970’s Vegas lifestyle floating in an alcoholic haze of anonymity.

All the characters become more than their superficial selves and in this peeling away of the layers C J Fisher shows an insightfulness and familiarity by reaching the core of her character’s emotions hinting at a fictional narrative that speaks the truth and makes the stories all the more powerful for their telling.

Death and the threat of life disintegrating is all pervading both in the demises of the key characters but also in the philosophical questioning of when does an act or feeling transition from something to nothing; . The reality of life is conveyed as being almost too brutal for the sensitivities of our emotions. The rising of the sun brings hope but also the inevitable shadows and hidden in this half-light is the threat of death which makes life hard to bear, and comprehend.

The author’s story telling prowess shines through as we realise the unconnected lives of these three generations of characters are infact inextricably linked through life, death and the notion of re-birth. The magic of life can probably only be best experienced via the magic of imagination and this is where Bobby the Illusion Maker gives us something to believe in.

When We Were Alive – C J Fisher, published by Legend Press £8.99

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