Monday, 15 August 2016

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.

Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

Based on the blurb of the book, I initially thought this story, in whole, would take place in the woods where Peggy and her father are living, with perhaps the end revealing an outcome of some sort - that wasn't the case however, and the way in which the story was actually told was something I quite enjoyed.

Of course, given the nature of this book, we do see a great number of scenes from Peggy's time in the forest, but the book actually begins with Peggy back at home, back in the London family home, after nine years in the wilderness with her father. So from the get go, we already know that Peggy does get back home, and from there the story unfolds in the form of glimpses from childhood and scenes leading up to the trek Peggy and her dad take to their 'new home', followed by her time in the European forest isolated from the world, with Peggy even believing that there is no world beyond that of the little cabin and surrounding woodlands. The story isn't told in a timeline order, but it doesn't feel haphazard and flows very nicely.

I think whilst talking of the plot, it is definitely worth mentioning that it is twisted in nature, treated delicately to an extent, and not something everybody will be able to stomach. I don't want to give the entire plot away, but there are scenes of woodland animal slaughter within this book, and there is also abuse of a child.

The prominent characters within Our Endless Numbered Days are naturally Peggy and her father. The development of both characters was really well written, especially when it came to how the isolation changed them as individuals over the years, and how that affected their behaviour and feelings towards one another.

The narrative within this book is really well done, with a depth and richness of detail that envelopes you in the words and the world these two have created for themselves.

An element I greatly enjoyed in this book is how realistic it all felt. Perhaps with books like this, where people live off the land or are in a remote situation, there is a pinch of salt needed with the plot itself, but that isn't the case with Our Endless Numbered Days - you can tell the author has done her research and has made the story as authentic as possible.

One thing I will mention about the writing, that I know some people aren't always keen on but that I myself have no issue with, is a large amount of description used within the text. The description often pertains to the nature and woodlands in which Peggy is traversing through and living in, and some readers may not be bothered with that extent of description.

Prior to reading Our Endless Numbered Days I'd heard a lot of good things regarding Claire Fuller's writing, and having now read the book I can see where the praise comes from - this is an amazing debut novel and I look forward to seeing what else the author shares in the future.

I borrowed Our Endless Numbered Days from the library, but loved the book so much I'll be purchasing a copy for my own book collection.


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