It's a tragic story in that many people are killed when the bolts supporting a pier shear off and the boardwalk/pier crashes and breaks apart flinging people sixty feet down into the ocean. The writing style makes the event feel real and immediate without an over abundance of blood and guts. "The struggling woman drops to her knees and digs her hands into the sand as if nothing and no one is going to separate her from solid ground ever again."
It's told in present tense which also makes it feel immediate and as though we are witnessing it happen in front of our eyes. Haddon gives enough specifics in the first couple of pages that sets the mood and place. The first line of the story is a specific date which gets the reader in the mindset right away that this is a real event, a specific event.
|dried seahorses in cellophane|
For me, the theme is about the fragility of life, the sudden way in which life can turn on a dime. But also, the way in which life continues. It may not continue for individuals but for the multitudes, it continues. The metaphorical pier, our lives are piers for ourselves and others, is demolished and erased and that's it. Those who are alive continue.
This is a great story and opens Haddon's collection of the same name, The Pier Falls and Other Stories. At first, I thought it a boring title for a story, but after reading it I like the matter-of-factness of the title. The pier broke and fell and people died and that's it. Not that it's not important, not hurtful, not sad or could have been avoided, but just that shit happens and then what's left continues. "The Pier Falls" was first published in The New Statesman and then was in the running for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award.