Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

26230625I want to call this book beautiful but it almost feels like a contradiction in terms.  Instead I’ll clarify by saying this is a beautifully written story and Claire Fuller has created a wonderful narrator in the form of Peggy or Punzel as she will become known throughout the book. I was totally glued to the page as Peggy recounted her tale.

This book tells the story of Peggy who at the age of 17 has finally returned to her family home after a nine year period of living in the wilds with her father.  At the start of the book Peggy takes us back to the long hot summer of 1976 when, at the age of 8, she’s starting to become more cognisant of the things around her.  Her mother, Ute, is a famous pianist though now living a fairly suburban existence and seemingly, although this is never openly related in the book, a little bored with this pedestrian life.  Ute comes across as a very strong personality even though she spends little time in the novel.  Peggy’s father James spends his days with a bunch of characters talking about and planning for doomsday.  James is effectively trying to plan a retreat for his family in preparation for a future apocalypse.  I must confess that at the start of the story I found James and Ute a rather unlikely couple but then the story of their initial romance is laid out and made more easy to see.

Anyway, Peggy recounts the summer of ’76 and the eventual sequence of events, albeit hazy and broken in her mind, to when her father took her away from the family home on a trip that began as something of a camping adventure. The two of them travelled across Europe until they eventually found the remote cabin of James’ dreams, Die Hutte, nestled up against the mountains, surrounded with a dark forest.  The very thing of fairy tales although this ramshackle and forsaken retreat is anything but a fairytale dream though.  This will be their home for the next 9 years until Peggy eventually succeeds in finding a way home.

Now, that may seem like a massive spoiler but it really isn’t.  We find out within the first few pages that Peggy is once again at home following a lengthy absence and this is when she begins to recount her tale.  The main thrust of the story is the experience from start to finish and I can say that this is a thoroughly gripping story.

If somebody told me that reading the stories of a father and daughter, living on their own wiles in the remotes of Bavaria would be compelling I probably wouldn’t have believed it but the wonderful writing style of Fuller that is given free rein through the voice of Peggy is frankly just an excellent combination.

At the start of this adventure James sells an idea to Peggy.  Peggy believes that they are the only two survivors in the world and they’re nestled here alone trying to stay alive.  The summer of course feels almost idyllic with the two gathering the fruits of the forest and living off nature’s bounty.  Unfortunately James hasn’t really considered the hardship of winter and that first year the two come very close to death.

The beauty of the story is Fuller’s ability to take us down what starts off as an idyllic path and to then gently tease out a different story and a darker and more twisted route.  Of course there’s never anything really overt, just occasional episodes that make you raise your eyebrows.  You find yourself having niggles and questions at the back of your mind but the author tugs you away from them by using a parallel story of the then and now.  I enjoyed the way this dual timeline is used although to be frank I was pretty much always desperate to return to the forest, I was always a little scared for Peggy and wanted to check back in on her.

Peggy is a really excellent character and I really did feel for her.  Her life is definitely one of hardship.  There are moments of delight of course but the two have their work cut out just managing day to day and on top of that preparing for the changing seasons.  We watch as the atmosphere becomes claustrophobic.  The rebelliousness starts to creep in and worse than that the slow descent into mental illness.

I really don’t want to say too much more. I think that most readers won’t be surprised by certain elements of the book as I know I certainly wasn’t but the revelations or twists are very thought provoking and I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the story now that it’s finished.  You realise on completion that a trail of breadcrumbs had indeed been left by the author and that your nagging suspicions were  picking up those crumbs before they could be eaten by the forest critters but sometimes you missed a few here and then and wandered around again a while looking for the trail.

I think this is a very clever, beautifully written, thought provoking novel.  It certainly looks at issues that could be uncomfortable to some readers although the beauty of the novel is that none of the things you fear the worst are ever really elaborated upon.  Peggy treats us to her adventure and it is a tale of childish naivety growing into rebellious adolescence.

A fairytale adventure gone wrong and in my opinion a great read told by a talented author.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


6 Responses to “Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller”

  1. Tammy

    Wow, I’ve never heard of this before. It sounds like it would definitely be my cup of tea! Although I’m a bit creeped out by the dad, he sounds a bit like he’s kidnapping his daughter. Must read!!

    • @lynnsbooks

      The funny thing is it doesn’t come across as creepy – although, yeah, basically he is abducting his daughter and there’s no getting round that. It’s just that the writing is so good, Peggy or Punzel is a great character. There are a lot of hardships and then the tone does start to change slightly and you start to have niggles and wonder how on earth things will work out. I really, really enjoyed reading it. Thought provoking and compelling.
      Lynn 😀

  2. lipsyy

    Love the look of this one!

  3. Danya @ Fine Print

    You make this sound so great, Lynn! Personally I’ve always enjoyed reading about dysfunctional/unusual families, especially in more literary titles. A fairytale gone wrong, with beautiful writing? Yes please! 😀

  4. You’re a star! | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller […]

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