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Thursday, 7 May 2020

When The Lights Go Out by Carys Bray


Chris and Emma's marriage is falling apart, their relationship being broken by something bigger than the two of them - the fate of mankind and the planet. Once they were equally concerned about the environmental catastrophe unfolding around them. Now, juggling home and work, Emma has adopted a more pragmatic approach to living, recycling whatever she can, and trying to make their resources (and income) stretch as far as possible. Chris, meanwhile, has begun to prepare for the end of the world, obsessing over climate change, stockpiling food and bizarre medicine bought online, and trying to spread his beliefs by preaching in town at weekends. 
As rain falls, the electricity mysteriously fails, and Christmas approaches, Emma begins to feel they can't go on in this way any longer ... and then Chris's mother moves in.

Carys Bray's third novel is the story of two people, once very much in love, but now drifting apart.. It's not down to the apathy that might sneak in to a long term relationship, but due to their different ways of coping with life and its challenges. Chris is exasperated by what he sees as Emma's abandonment of their ideals. Emma thinks Chris should concern himself with problems closer to home first, and worry about the wider world later.

As always, Carys Bray creates characters who feel real; believable and slightly flawed, they're people we can empathise with, even if we don't agree. Chris and Emma have a relationship full of love; they just choose to focus that love on different things, and express it in different ways. Emma is focused on family - the day to day hassle of providing food, clothing, and, above all, love. Chris has his sights on a longer, more catastrophic goal, and worries about how they, and anyone else, will survive when the environmental apocalypse comes.
Something I always like about Carys Bray's writing is that she isn't judgmental about her characters. It would be so easy to show Chris as in the wrong, especially when some of his actions seem a little underhand at times, but he and his ideas are presented with the same care, and given the same weight and respect that Emma's are. He and Emma may not agree, but that doesn't mean his opinions are of lesser value. They're attempting to cope with life's unpredictability in very different ways, but at the heart of both is love.

When The Lights Go Out has fallen victim to coronavirus lockdown, and now won't be published in physical form till autumn; meanwhile it's available as an e-book and audible.  I can't help but wonder what Chris would think about the situation we find ourselves in right now ... 

Maryom's review - 5 stars 
Publisher - 
Hutchinson
Genre - adult fiction,

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