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The Guardian view on time-loop fiction: when the past is imperfect | Editorial

It’s no coincidence that novels, romcoms and video games are all embracing the idea that history can be replayed

The Royal Society of Literature’s award of this year’s Encore prize for the best second novel of the year has an appropriately counterfactual relationship with history, going, as it did, to a writer – Francis Spufford – who had five well-received works of nonfiction behind him before he embarked on his second life in fiction.

Light Perpetual had already been longlisted for the Booker prize, so this is not a writer who has struggled in obscurity to complete that difficult follow-up. It is especially apt, however, given the subject of his winning novel, which imagines the potential afterlives of five children whose actual lives ended in November 1944 when a German V2 rocket struck south London. The author has said that the idea came to him when he spotted a commemorative plaque on his way to work.

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