Our Endless Numbered Days, by Claire Fuller

Our Endless Numbered Days, by Claire Fuller

Take notice of what you’re being told in the first few pages of Our Endless Numbered Days. When you reach the end of this satisfying and beautifully drawn story, you’ll find that the whole of the book is present in those initial paragraphs.

 This morning I found a black and white photograph of my father at the back of the bureau drawer. He didn’t look like a liar… He looked shockingly young and healthy, his face as smooth and white as a river pebble. He would have been twenty-six, nine years older than I am today.

We meet Peggy in 1985, when she is seventeen, and sitting alone in her mother’s house in London. What follows is the story of where she has been for the previous nine years.

Back in 1976, the year of the notoriously long and hot summer, Peggy Hillcoat was safe in a comfortable, predictable world, her life following a straightforward pattern of school and stories and playing with her friend Becky. In the evenings, she would lie in bed listening to her mother, Ute, playing the piano, or her father, James, talking with his ‘hairy and earnest’ survivalist friends. Her father has turned the cellar of their home into a fallout shelter in preparation for the end of the world, but it’s not scary, it’s more like a game. Peggy has to show how quickly she can be ready when the alarm goes off, but this is fun, until James’ friend Oliver is watching, and judging.

There is an imbalance in this idyllic world, though, and James has something to prove, both to his wife and his friend. When Ute leaves for a concert tour of Germany, he first keeps Peggy home from school, then takes her away on a mysterious holiday, destination unknown. When they reach die Hütte, a wooden cabin in the middle of a vast expanse of deserted forest, it is without the benefit of the organised stores in the cellar back in London. Then Peggy is told that the rest of the world has gone.

There are survival stories that uplift, that tell of triumph against the odds. Here, though, the odds have been stacked artificially. In a world seen through Peggy’s eyes, James is the adult, the one with knowledge and authority. She has to trust him, because what else is she to do? But he has jumped into this plan in a fit of pique, plunging them both into a false dystopia as a revenge against those who have tricked him. And he’s not as practical as he would like to think.

Fuller creates a pitch perfect sense of an eight year old’s view of a very skewed reality. As Peggy struggles to survive in the isolation of die Hütte, growing into a young woman, we are given the feeling of a Grimms’ Fairy Tale where rescue doesn’t happen, where the nightmare becomes normality and time disappears. The cadence is thrown into relief by the scenes from Peggy’s return to her mother, the way in which remembered places are oddly distorted, where people are somehow larger, where life has continued and she cannot find her way back in.

I was gripped by this book. It’s one of those reads where you step in and disappear, to emerge hours later not knowing quite what to do with yourself. The ending, so expertly threaded into the narrative, comes both as a surprise and an inevitability. One of my favourite books of the year so far.

 

You can buy Our Endless Numbered Days at any good bookshop, or by going here. And remember to leave an Amazon review! It only takes a second, and means a lot to the author.

Claire has a great blog, which you can find here, and you can follow her on Twitter here.

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  1. Interview with Claire Fuller, author of Our Endless Numbered Days - Sarah Jasmon - […] You can read my review of Our Endless Numbered Days here. […]

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