Book Review: See You Tomorrow

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See You Tomorrow, by Tore Renberg, is a disturbing tale of people making a mess of their lives. Three groups of disparate characters living in a small town in Norway find their lives overlapping during an intense three days. The reader is taken inside each of their heads, an often uncomfortable place to be. There is little common sense in any of their behaviours, yet the actions depicted are depressingly believable.

All of the characters have back stories that have left them damaged. Their lives are filled with personal isolation, broken families and a seeming inability to take control with any sort of sagacity. I found it hard to empathise with many of the predicaments described, the choices made being hard to comprehend as so lacking in foresight.

The loving father who had run up debts was desperate and perhaps didn’t understand exactly what he was getting himself into. The teenagers were exploring boundaries, sexual awakenings and new relationships so could be forgiven many of their actions due to age and inexperience. This group garnered more of my sympathy, even if the consequences they created proved to be the most devastating.

It was the group of small time crooks who frustrated me the most, and whose depiction gained the author my admiration. I had not considered that such people would think in the way described in this book, that they would commend each others execrable thoughts and actions, be so shallow in their aspirations; yet to choose to live such lives they would have to think differently. Their casual racism and sexism grated, but it was their mutual admiration for the highlights of their sordid lifestyle that I found hard to stomach.

See You Tomorrow is undoubtedly well written. The twists and turns of the plot were unpredictable and I was eager to find out what happened to each of the characters as the results of their actions played out. I like to read diversely and felt I learned something from this book about the workings of the underbelly of society. It is disturbing to think that such people may exist, not evil but smugly satisfied with their limited and damaging way of life.

The denouement left me feeling that little had been learned by the protagonists. I felt defeated by this, that society could be so disappointing. Whilst certainly not a feel good book, it is perhaps a powerful argument for supporting those in need, of not turning away. This is a story that challenged me with its pathos and anger. I will be mulling it over for some time to come.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Arcadia Books.

 

 

Book Review: That Dark Remembered Day

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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.