Tuesday, 21 April 2015
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
review by Maryom
1985 - and Peggy is back in her London home, reunited with her mother Ute after 9 years living in a hut buried deep in the Bavarian forests with her survivalist father. She's finding it hard to adjust - her father convinced her that not only her mother but the whole world had perished in some violent apocalypse, and that the only safe place left was their little piece of forest - outside was black emptiness.
Peggy's father James had always been a survivalist - with a group of like-minded friends he plotted the best way to survive armageddon, made equipment lists and stocked his specially constructed cellar - but in 1976, when Peggy was 8, his game-playing turned serious. While Ute was away from home, he received some disturbing news and decided to take Peggy away to a wooden cabin, die Hutte, hidden deep in a forest. Peggy at first believes they are on holiday but as the weeks pass by she starts to wonder when they'll be going home...then one day, after an horrendous storm James tells her that the rest of the world has perished, that beyond their enclave nothing exists any more....
Now it's 1985 and Peggy is trying to adjust to many things - she's back home in London, the outside world hasn't perished, her mother has been missing her for all these years and she has a brother, born a few months after she and her father departed. But Peggy too has her own share of surprises lined up for her mother....
Our Endless Numbered Days unfolds from two points; 1976 with the background to James' actions, and 1985 as Peggy tries to come to terms with the fact that everything she's believed for the past 9 years has been a lie. Cleverly teasing the reader with just enough information to hold interest but keeping back enough to tantalise, Fuller draws you into the strange mock post-apocalyptic world that James has created for him and his daughter. Everything is told from Peggy's point of view and as events unfolded I started to realise that maybe she wasn't the most reliable of narrators for two reasons. Firstly, the flashback sections are seen through the eyes of the child she was then; with no understanding of her father's behaviour she accepts his word as true, and goes along with his plans because she has no choice. Secondly, as the years pass, Peggy's is the only account of events; there are no other witnesses so no one to contradict the tale. This unreliability left me trying to second-guess what might have happened, and partly prepared me for some of the revelations at the end. I wish to a certain extent that part had been seen from James' point of view - I'd have liked to know more of his motivations and justification of events.
How would I describe it? it's part dystopian post-apocalyptic survival novel - Peggy firmly believes she and her father are the last people on Earth, that when tools break, clothes wear out or food supplies drop dangerously low there is no outside backup; part thriller - as the reader knows something momentous must have occurred for Peggy to have returned home; and part examination into the personal motives and deceptions of James and Peggy. What it is without doubt is a gripping page-turning read. I didn't want to put it down at all, it grabs your attention and doesn't let it go.
4.5 stars rather than the full 5 because I'm just not sure I'd read it again - at least not too soon. Now all the twists have been revealed, it's maybe lost a little of its power over me.
Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Fig Tree (Penguin)
Genre - adult literary thriller