Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Book Review: OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS by Claire Fuller


Our Endless Numbered Days


Author: Claire Fuller
Read: February 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Peggy Hillcoat is eight years old when her survivalist father, James, takes her from their home in London to a remote hut in the woods and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. Deep in the wilderness, Peggy and James make a life for themselves. They repair the hut, bathe in water from the river, hunt and gather food in the summers and almost starve in the harsh winters. They mark their days only by the sun and the seasons.

When Peggy finds a pair of boots in the forest and begins a search for their owner, she unwittingly begins to unravel the series of events that brought her to the woods and, in doing so, discovers the strength she needs to go back to the home and mother she thought she’d lost.

After Peggy's return to civilization, her mother learns the truth of her escape, of what happened to James on the last night out in the woods, and of the secret that Peggy has carried with her ever since.


My thoughts:

What a beautifully written book – I think so far this has been my most memorable read for 2017, and one that will stay with me for a long time to come.

In the summer of 1976, eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat is growing up in a spacious house in London as the much-loved daughter of a famous concert pianist and a survivalist father. All is well in her world until her mother Ute goes away on a concert tour to Germany, leaving her in the care of her father James, who seems to slowly unravel the longer Ute is away for. Soon James is teaching Peggy survival skills instead of sending her to school , and the pair are living in a tent in the garden, living off squirrels and other foraged foods. After a heated argument with one of his survivalist friends, James packs a few belongings into a rucksack and takes Peggy away for a “holiday” to a remote mountain cabin in the European Alps away from civilisation. After sitting through a violent thunderstorm one night, James tells Peggy that the rest of the world has perished, and that they are the only two human survivors left. Thus, life in the wilderness alone with her father becomes Peggy’s reality for the next nine years, until a twist of fate finally delivers her back into civilisation.

I absolutely loved Peggy, and she became so real to me that it felt like I lost an old friend when the book finished. Her voice is innocent, fresh and original, drawing me in from the first page, taking me by the hand and luring me into her world. Through Peggy, Fuller managed to create such vivid scenery in my mind that I could see “die Hütte” quite clearly in front of my eyes, hear the rustling of the wind in the trees and the soft gurgle of the river in the distance. I didn’t just read this book, but I feel like I LIVED it, transported like Aladdin on a magic carpet to faraway lands. Days after finishing it, I still miss being part of Peggy’s journey. Simply magical, beautiful, tragic & heartbreaking all at the same time.

This book is not for people who want action or suspense, but its power lies in the small everyday observations and feelings that make up Peggy’s reality, and Fuller has a way with words that creates true-to-life characters and an atmospheric setting until it seems like a living, breathing being itself. Her descriptions of nature were stunning, as they were raw and brutal at times. Fuller’s account of James’ slow spiralling deeper and deeper into mental illness was well drawn and realistic, creating an undercurrent of danger and impending doom throughout the novel. At times I felt like biting my nails as the story unfolded, fearing for Peggy. Whilst I had a premonition of the ending to come, I was still saddened and shocked by the full extent of Peggy’s ordeal.

I chose the audio version of this book, and a huge credit goes to Eilidh L. Beaton, for her wonderful narration of the story. With her amazing ability to give each character their own unique voice, including authentic foreign accents, she brought the characters to life for me and made my daily commute a pleasure I looked forward to.

Image result for 5 stars


If, like me, you loved the descriptive setting of this novel, you may also enjoy:
The Snow Child The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey

Or by the same author:
Swimming Lessons Swimming Lessons, by Claire Fuller



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