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The Rescue Man

by Anthony Quinn - £8.99  Vintage (2010)
paperback    ISBN 13: 9780099531937 | ISBN 10: 0099531933

Summer, 1939. Historian Tom Baines is at work on a study of Liverpool's architectural past. His mood, like the rest of the country's, is distracted by the ominous rumblings from Europe; if war should come, will the buildings and streets that he documents survive?
Orphaned as a child and now approaching forty with no prospect of a family of his own, Baines is a man emotionally adrift. But his faltering project receives a boost when a photographer, Richard Tanqueray, and his wife Bella befriend him, and together they work against the clock of a rapidly contracting peacetime.
A further preoccupation takes hold when he begins to read the long-forgotten journals of a brilliant young Victorian architect, Peter Eames, a disciple of Ruskin who briefly flourished in Liverpool during the 1860s before his fortunes collapsed and his reputation fell into neglect. Through him Baines comes to a fuller understanding of the nature of genius, but also the ambiguous circumstances of a supposedly happy family and the mysterious workings of the human heart.
Eames's own legacy will have unexpected reverberations seventy years later when war comes and Baines joins a Heavy Rescue team, retrieving the wounded from bomb-damaged buildings. With the ordinary rules of life suspended and mortal danger ever present, he finds his courage tested as a rescue man - and his conscience troubled as an adulterous lover.
The Rescue Man operates in a restless shuttle between past and present. As one city rises amid the building boom of the 1860s, the same city in 1940 threatens to fall beneath the devastation of the Blitz. In prose that reflects the dark humour and spiritual dread of the times, Anthony Quinn recreates wartime Liverpool with the same intensity and fidelity he invests in the city of Eames's Victorian journals. It is a striking double vision of love found and lost, propelling the reader through the streets of 'the Venice of the North' towards a wrenching and unforgettable conclusion.

(Price & availability last checked: September 2018)

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In booklists: Liverpool, Wirral and Merseyside during World War I and II,
In categories: History & Biography,

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