Somehow it has escaped my attention to write a review of Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (Penguin, 2015), which, I have realised, is completely perverse because I have recommended it to two people in the last two days. I read this book a few weeks ago but it has stayed with me so it seems logical for me to explain why.
Our Endless Numbered Days tells the story of Peggy, the young daughter of a famous pianist mother and survivalist father. The novel begins in London, with Peggy’s parents at odds over her father’s strange apocalypse-preparation hobbies and creepy friends. One day, Peggy’s father takes her from her home to a cabin in a remote location in Europe, and then the novel becomes something else altogether.
Fuller’s story somehow seamlessly integrates both realism and aspects of fairy tales, subtly portraying the creepy aspects of the father-daughter relationship and its unsettling interdependence in a way which consistently worries the reader, while still allowing them to be surprised with later developments.
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.
Peggy is a compelling narrator, evoking sympathy without asking for it. There is both an innocence and a knowingness about her; her remote new home means she is wild, but the story-telling is delicate and beautiful.
Fuller does interesting things with family dynamics, with the relationships between mother, father and daughter showing development and convincing feeling. Nobody is idealised or demonised, regardless of their actions, allowing the reader to make their own decisions.
I’m not sure any of this really explains why I keep recommending Our Endless Numbered Days. The style is artful but also immensely readable, while the story is both family saga and thriller. I really enjoyed Fuller’s style, occasionally evoking a dreamlike atmosphere. The final quarter, in particular, is superbly plotted and written, with a true drop-the-book-in-shock revelation (I was shocked, anyway. But I am easily surprised). It’s a book I will continue to recommend and probably buy for people; it elegantly straddles the line between literary and general fiction, and I hope it becomes one of ‘those’ books which people will bully you for not having read.