Our Endless Numbered Days
February 26, 2015
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. She is not seen again for another nine years. 1985: Peggy has returned to the family home. But what happened to her in the forest? And why - and how - has she come back now? As if laying a trail of breadcrumbs for readers to follow, Claire Fuller leads us on an extraordinary and heart stopping journey as light as it is dark and as joyful as it is horrifying. 'I tore through it, found it utterly gripping and loved its hypnotic atmosphere. The beauty and pleasures of the natural world pitted against the unravelling horrors of isolation and insanity worked brilliantly' Esther Freud 'A remarkable first novel, I was much impressed by the conviction of the child's eye view, the vivid climate and the power of the narrative' Penelope Lively 'Our Endless Numbered Days is suspenseful, utterly riveting, and as dark as midnight in the forest' Rebecca Hunt (author of Everland and Mr Chartwell) 'Excellent...... I loved the combination of Peggy/Punzel's absolutely authentic child's precision for detail and her day-to-day matter-of-factness (often very funny) with the strangeness of the world she inhabited...... very powerfully imagined... absolutely compelling' Morag Joss (author of The Night Following) 'Graciously written and capriciously imagined, Our Endless Numbered Days holds up a magnifying lens to the human spirit and deftly captures both its fragility and its resilience. The brilliant ending, like the best endings do, casts new light on all that comes be for it' Cathy Marie Buchanan (author of The Painted Girls) 'Narrated with warmth and compassion, Our Endless Numbered Days is a haunting and beautiful novel. I loved every page' Daniel Clay (author of Broken) 'Fuller's compelling coming-of-age story, narrated from the perspective of Peggy's return to civilization, is delivered in translucent prose' Kirkus
I found the outline of “Our Endless Numbered Days” by Claire Fuller intriguing. A father takes his young daughter away from her mother and civilisation and lives somewhere remote for some years having told his daughter that the “rest of the world has gone”. As the book opens with the fact that the girl, now in her mid/late teens, is back in London with her mother, I’m giving nothing away by saying that. The book’s chapter time shift between the current time when she is home with her mother and the time leading up to her leaving with her father and their time in isolation. Her father was a survivalist from the 60s and the description of her early childhood was evocative of the 70s.
From here on I find this book harder to review. It is well enough written and the basic outline is interesting and has promise. However I found the some of the characters lacked real dimension including her mother and father. The character of Peggy, the girl, was better however I found the voices used not all that convincing. The younger Peggy, when she left, seemed quite reasonable however as she aged I found her less so. The idea that by her teens she would be so accepting of her father’s statement that the world (outside their valley) was no longer there became less and less credible. I did find parts of the book relatively vivid and engaging however other parts did seem slow to me. It is worth mentioning that some people will certainly find the content of this book unsettling and there is a dark side to it.
In the end it was one of those rare books where I’d actually spotted the twists for myself before the conclusion. However I still found the ending relatively good but, for me, that did not really make up for the portions of the book that were less interesting and convincing.
Note – I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review