The Times reviews Our Endless Numbered Days

The Times

 

Today, The Times published a very lovely review of Our Endless Numbered Days – my first review in a UK national paper. The Times is pay-walled, so there’s not much point in having a link to the piece, so here is the print version. (The slightly odd sub-editing is caused I think by someone cutting down the online version for the printed newspaper.)

 

A thriller of a fairytale

By Fiona Wilson

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller Fig Tree

The year is young and yet already the literary world has been confronted with several novels that force readers to experience a parent’s bleakest nightmare, the abduction of a child – in both cases, that of a girl.

The stakes are high with a subject like this. The American detective novelist Laura Lippmann has described such missing-person novels as real-life ghost stories where those left behind are haunted by the possibilities of what has happened to their loved one. There is another side to the story: that of the point of view of the missing person. This is the premise for Claire Fuller’s debut novel, and it’s a triumph.

Our Endless Numbered Days is inspired by fairytales; the story’s menace is more Hansel and Gretel than that of a parent’s real-life horror story. Peggy, a young girl, is stolen away by her survivalist father to “die Hütte”, a ramshackle cottage in a European forest, and tells her that the end of the world has come, that her mother has died and they are the only survivors.

This much we know at the start: it is 1976 and Peggy’s father is building a fall-out shelter for the seemingly inevitable armageddon. He teaches eight-year-old Peggy to catch and kill a squirrel and trains her to pack a rucksack with everything she needs within four minutes of the blow of his silver whistle. When Ute, her mother, goes travelling with work, her father takes Peggy on “a holiday” to their cabin and cuts them off from the world. He tells Peggy that Ute has died and that a storm has wiped out the rest of the world. So begins their strange existence in the woods.

We know that Peggy survives the ordeal because twinned with this narrative is another set in 1985 – nine years after she went missing – when she has been reunited with the very much alive Ute, who has since had another child, Oskar. Peggy, we know, has arrived at her mother’s home malnourished with rotten teeth and only half an ear. “What did you like to eat when you were away?” Ute asks, “were away” being her euphemism for Peggy’s disappearance.

Peggy’s feelings about her father are confused: she cuts out a small photograph of him and sticks it under her right breast. “I knew if he stayed there, everything would be all right and I would be allowed to remember.” Within 50 pages, you are swamped with questions: what really happened that summer? How involved was Ute and where is Peggy’s father now? Slowly, the memories come back. Fuller handles the tension masterfully in this grown-up thriller of a fairytale, full of clues, questions and intrigue.

Fiona Wilson

Giveaways, Reviews and Mentions

Goodreads giveaway

Our Endless Numbered Days will be published this year. It’s been a long wait (over 18 months from when the novel was sold to Penguin in the UK). It will be released by Tin House in the US on 17th March, and to celebrate they’ve arranged a Goodreads giveaway. There are 10 free books available to US readers. Just enter your details here before 7th January for a chance of winning.

The beginning of a new year often brings with it those lists of ‘what books to look out for in 2015’, and I’m pleased to say that Our Endless Numbered Days featured in a few of them:

Isabel Costello’s Literary Sofa: Fiction Hot Picks 2015. This is a wonderful blog about reading and writing. She selected 13 novels due to be released shortly, and read many more.

Naomi Frisby’s Writes of Women: Ones to Read in 2015. A blog dedicated to writing by and about women writers; another blog well worth following. Naomi chose 16 books that have gone straight on my ‘to be read’ pile.

Huffington Post: Best Debut Fiction Coming in 2015. Hannah Beckerman selected 20 debuts coming in the first half of 2015.

The Guardian: The Most Eagerly Awaited Fiction 2015. A brief mention for Our Endless Numbered Days in a UK national paper.

The Readers: Books to Look Forward to in Spring and Summer 2015. If you prefer to listen to book recommendations this book-based banter podcast is great. Simon and Gavin list thirteen books each that they’re looking forward to in 2015.

The Globe and Mail (A Canadian newspaper): The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2015 (the first half anyway).

The Chicago Tribune: 2015 Book Preview – the Future in Reading. Our Endless Numbered Days is listed with three others under the section, ‘Future Tense: Stories of Mystery, Horror and Suspense’.

Bella’s Bookshelves: Our Endless Numbered Days. A review from an early reader from Canada. “The atmosphere, the setting, the details…everything was so palpable that it feels like memory.”

And finally, in KIRKUS reviews an early review: “Fuller’s compelling coming-of-age story, narrated from the perspective of Peggy’s return to civilization, is delivered in translucent prose.”

So, don’t forget if you’re based in the US and would like a chance to get a free copy of Our Endless Numbered Days, don’t forget to go to Goodreads and click ‘enter to win’.