That Dark Remembered Day, by Tom Vowler, explores the impact on individual lives of trauma, family and blame.
A soldier returns from the Falklands War damaged by his experiences. Neither he nor his family know how to cope with the change in him, which culminates in an act of violence so brutal as to affect the entire town in which they live. The book presents the build up to this event from each of the characters points of view. The lasting effects on the son, now a father himself, are described with raw honesty. It is a study of ordinary people and the difficulties of facing up to tragedy when, with hindsight, there is a fear that at least a part could have been prevented had different actions been taken at the time.
The tale unfolds in time frames, allowing the reader to understand the mindsets of each of the characters before, during and after the pivotal day that changed their lives forever. This jumping around does not interrupt the flow, although I felt a little impatience as it took some time to get to the act itself. I was concerned that, with such a build up, I would be disappointed when all was revealed. I was not, and soon came to realise that this was not so important anyway. The story was always about what happened next, how those who were left struggled to cope with the memories, the guilt, and the blame.
At the heart of the tale is family, how each member sees the same, shared events differently. The relationships between partners, parents and children are presented unadorned. The family may be a unit but it is made up of individuals, each living their own lives and thinking their own thoughts. Expectations and disappointments that have rumbled unspoken beneath the surface explode into recriminations when the unit is fractured. Each looks at the other and finds fault.
The language of the book is intense but lyrical, understated yet candid. It is an unsettling read, not least because it is believable and the characters, so previously unremarkable, shattered by an extraordinary event, with repercussions living on to the next generation. Family may always be there for its members, but will not always offer what is needed.
The novel has depth and drama, suspense and psychological honesty. It is a page turner that I read in a day but will be considering for some time to come. The accomplished writing and captivating tale make it a book that I would recommend to all.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Headline.