Life: An Exploded Diagram, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


A brilliant coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Cold War and events leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis.Clem Ackroyd lives with his parents and grandmother in a claustrophobic home too small to accommodate their larger-than-life characters in the bleak Norlfolk countryside.

Clem's life changes irrevocably when he meets Frankie, the daughter of a wealthy farmer, and experiences first love, in all its pain and glory.

The story is told in flashback by Clem when he is living and working in New York City as a designer, and moves from the past of his parents and grandmother to his own teenage years.

Not only the threat of explosions, but actual ones as well, feature throughout in this latest novel from one of the finest writers working today.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416 pages, no
  • Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Romance
  • ISBN: 9781844281008

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

This is the story of Clem, a working class boy, and his love affair with Frankie who is the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Despite obstacles they contrive to meet and, with the threat of the Cuban Missile crisis hanging over them, they are determined to 'go all the way'.The first section of the book is the story of Clem's mother and grandmother so it takes a while to get into Clem's story and when you do, it is interrupted by the story of Kennedy and the missile crisis.

Review by

I think I may have found a new favourite author.Is this a coming of age novel? A romance? A history lesson? Yes, it is all of that, and they're all tied up together into this book with an amazing historical scope and an ambitious exploration of how Big History, the Cold War, effects the lives of kids in provincial Norfolk. But, you have to go further than that, because the Cold War doesn't make sense without reference to the Second World War, and neither do these kids make sense without reference to their parents and grandparents. This is a book to get deeply involved in. It's long, and not a quick read, but it's nourishing. It gives as much as you give it, which is all you can ask of a novel. The descriptions, in particular the similes, are fantastic.So what's it about? Working class grammar school kid falls for the rich daughter of his father's boss. But, actually, you don't even meet these characters until about half-way through. If I had one criticism, I would have to keep it to myself because it kind of gives away the ending. But if you've already read this, you'll know what I mean. I didn't think the actual violence, when it finally arrived, was as well tied-in as it could have been. It was almost meaningless, when it could have had more resonance. But perhaps that's the point - history doesn't always makes sense. The 20th century isn't a novel.Once you've read this, try Waterland by Graham Swift.

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