You know you’re in safe hands with a writer who uses the word crescendo¹ correctly on the first page, and comes with an endorsement from Alison Moore. That Dark Remembered Day bubbles with elegant descriptions from the Cornish coast to the windswept Falklands as the past is uncovered layer by layer until the full horror of that day’s events are finally revealed.
This is a novel well worth reading for the poignancy of the events it portrays and its eloquent prose. Yet the fact that the exact nature of the tragedy is withheld for so long from the reader makes it both challenging to review without spoilers and, on occasion, a slightly frustrating read. While it’s in keeping with the characters of both Stephen and his mother that they would not discuss the tragedy that befell them, and it’s also in the nature of such a trauma that words seem inadequate to the task, I think it might have been more satisfying to have had more clues earlier on, especially when one is tempted to guess. Or perhaps I was too literal in my reading and others would have realised immediately from the prologue exactly what had occurred:
… by the side of the road a mound that looked both ridiculous and commonplace. Still as a rock, it had been covered almost entirely by an old grey blanket, and as he passed it, as his mind processed what it was, he felt his heart quicken, da-dum da-dum, as if it were dancing. (p3)
Nevertheless, the revelation is worth waiting for and ties together several plot strands. Overall, this is a tragic and touching exploration of the aftermath of terror.
¹ As any musician knows, crescendo means a gradual increase in volume but is increasingly misused as a synonym for pinnacle.
I’d welcome your feedback on any aspect of this post. As it’s something I’m grappling with in my own writing, I’m particularly seeking opinions on how to handle “the big reveal” in novels that centre around confronting the past.
Thanks to Headline books for my review copy of That Dark Remembered Day
I’ll be hosting a post by Tom Vowler in a lighter mood on 26 June as part of his blog tour for this book. To be sure not to miss it you can subscribe to Annecdotal via email by going to the sidebar.