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Home Fires [Paperback]

Elizabeth Day
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
RRP: £11.99
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Book Description

14 Mar 2013

Max Weston, twenty-one and a newly commissioned lance corporal, leaves home for his first posting in central Africa. Fiercely patriotic and completely at home in the army, he is eager to make a difference. He never comes back.

His parents Caroline and Andrew are devastated by the death of their only child. The overwhelming love Caroline has always felt for her son is now matched by the intensity of her loss, and as she is borne away on a private ocean of grief the moorings of their marriage begin to come loose.

The silence is broken by the arrival of Andrew's mother, Elsa, who at the age of ninety-eight can no longer look after herself. Caroline has never felt good enough for this elegant, cuttingly courteous lady and has lived for years in fear of putting a foot wrong. Now, suddenly, Caroline has the upper hand.

As Elsa lies, marooned and disorientated, in the spare room, the past unspools in her mind, throwing up fragments of her anxious childhood in 1920s Richmond - under the shadow of her father, a soldier who came back from the Great War a different man.

A stunning, delicate portrait of a family bookended by war, Home Fires explores the legacy of loss, the strictures of class and the long road to redemption.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (14 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408828677
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408828670
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.2 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 519,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Elizabeth Day writes with unflinching, responsible honesty; I was inspired and enlightened by the deep humanity of Home Fires (Sadie Jones)

Day is an empathetic observer. She is meticulous in teaching and dissecting each sentence her characters experience ... The prose is deliberate, precise and bone dry ... Elizabeth Day pursues her study of characters attempting to keep the past at bay with a biblical intensity reminiscent of early Anita Brookner and a prose style closer to that of Pat Barker ... Home Fires conveys a broader version of life with the claustrophobia of emotional repression (Eileen Battersby, Irish Times)

Day has created a compelling study of grief, not least the conflicting ways in which the bereaved may wish to remember the dead ... A bold novel, shocking in what it confronts and also in its suggestion that love will, ultimately, survive trauma (Daily Telegraph)

Day's great strength is her insight ... An elegant, addictive portrayal of a family at war with its past. A beautifully written novel whose quietly discomfiting tone stays with you for a long while afterwards (Observer)

It's to Elizabeth Day's credit that she turns her back on the conventional narrative to explore the realistic consequences of war and violence on the women who, to cite the song to which the novel's title alludes, keep the home fires burning. Day chooses the tough option at every turn, with the result that the novel becomes a powerful and, at times, heartbreaking account of Caroline and Elsa's inability to deal with their crises. The prose is crisp and forthright, particularly when Day is describing the variations of violence, although she has a piercing eye for a telling phrase or a poetic flourish ... Home Fires is powerful and haunting, a thought-provoking testimony to the fortitude of those women and children who cope with the repercussions of war (Irish Examiner)

Deeply moving (Woman's Own)

Very sad and very lovely (Grazia)

An elegant meditation ... Elizabeth Day's lyrical Home Fires comes highly recommended (Viv Groskop, Observer Book of the Year)

Book Description

A stunning, delicate portrait of a family bookended by war, Home Fires explores the legacy of loss, the strictures of class and the long road to redemption

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an exceptional novel 31 Mar 2013
Elizabeth Day's second novel is perfectly structured and beautifully written. It tells of the harrowing effect that two wars have on four generations of the same family. Day writes perceptively and sensitively about deep grief, inner torment and the ageing process (the toll the years take both on an elderly mind and a long marriage). The author skips skilfully from various poignant episodes of the past century to deliver a moving portrait of a family gripped by dark secrets and the death of a much-loved son and grandson.
For the second time in as many novels, Day has displayed a monumental aptitude to write about complex family relationships with style and compassion. Home Fires is an exceptional novel from an immensely talented young author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read 15 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this book brought back many memories of my own childhood. I WAS BORN DURING THE WAR so although I don't remember from the start I do the end and immediately after.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, Relevant and Deftly Composed 8 Mar 2013
Elizabeth Day's second novel is the story of Caroline and Andrew Weston, whose only son, Max, a lance corporal, is posted to central Africa. When out on foot patrol in the Upper Nile State, surveying the African countryside to ensure the safety of the local villagers, something happens to Max that changes the lives of the rest of his family forever. Back home in England, Max's parents struggle to cope with the devastation they feel, especially his mother, Caroline, who has always loved him with a particularly deep intensity. As Caroline falls into a depression, relying on prescription drugs to numb the pain, Andrew tries to pull his life together, but he feels rejected by his wife who does not believe that his grief can be as profound as her own.

When Andrew's ninety-eight-year-old mother, Elsa, has a stroke and can no longer care for herself, Andrew feels that inviting his mother to come and live with him and his wife, will not only help his mother, but also encourage Caroline to pick up the threads of their life - however, although this may be a solution to Andrew's concern over his ailing mother, is this really the best thing for Caroline, who has always felt socially inferior to and rather in awe of her sophisticated and elegant mother-in-law? And when Elsa comes to stay and finds herself marooned in her daughter-in-law's spare bedroom, and reliant on a woman with whom she has never really become intimate, is this arrangement a good thing for Elsa?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and unusual novel 9 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
A poignant, elegantly-written book which grows on you as you get deeper into it. It's intense, dealing as it does with the subject matter of the effects of war on a returning soldier, bereavement, grief and the slide into senility. The characters of Elsa, mother-in-law to Caroline, Caroline herself and her husband Andrew are well-drawn and interesting, although certainly are not always likeable. This does not matter, the reader still wants to know what happens to them as the story progresses, unpicking their actions and emotions, painting a portrait of lives playing out.

An unusual book by a literary writer with real skill who knows her craft. Will definitely follow up by reading her other novel, 'Scissors, Paper, Stone'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It made me cry. 9 May 2013
By Sharon
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. It simply tells the story of how the death of their soldier son affects the remaining family members, namely the mother, father and grandmother. We are given insight into the characters as time flicks about so you learn a bit about their past. I thought the characterisation was great. Quite an emotional read, it made me cry several times.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching novel. 2 Mar 2013
By Lorna
The story deals with Catherine, who is struggling to cope with the death of her beloved son, Max; her husband Andrew & his elderly mother Elsa, who is struggling to cope with the aftermath of a stroke.
It's wonderfully descriptive. Even the minute detail is included, which makes you feel as if you are there living this along with the characters. Different chapters are from different characters' points of view, which I really enjoyed, as you get a different perspective. Elsa's deterioration really struck me, as she is presented as a such a strong women in earlier days.
It's quite topical as well with the mentions of war & peacekeeping in far away lands & I felt like I could identity slightly with this, having heard similar stories on the news these last few years.
An emotional & moving book, which touches on issues of loss, family, relationships & really just who we are as people. This is the first book I have read by Elizabeth Day but I will certainly be seeking out her earlier work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting portrait of family relationships! 28 Feb 2014
By Emma H.
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Elizabeth Day's 'Home Fires' carries the reader right to the heart of a family in crisis. Despite her formidable, controlling personality, we have to admire Elsa's spirit. Like Caroline, her daughter-in-law, she has almost succeeded in shaking off her past to reinvent herself: but each woman's brittle shell is cracked when unforeseen events strike. Inhibitions are cast aside, raw emotions surface and even the long-suffering Andrew has his own melt-down. Totally believable characters and convincing events make for a story that's unforgettable.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but depressing
About getting old and needing to be cared for. Home care vs nursing home. About losing someone dear to war and the effects on a relationship. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Kevin
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
A great read delivered to my kindle. I would recommend this author to anyone who likes a spellbinding book. Great
Published 10 months ago by barbienick
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking
This was an interesting read, focusing on the way two women deal with grief, switching between the decades. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Gill in Gloucs
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Very well written and although a somewhat sombre story, it was hard to put down.
I would certainly recommended and would read more by the same author.
Published 13 months ago by Ann
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
A story told over different time periods, with different narrative voices and covering three generations of one family. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Jill in East Kent
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotional
A very engaging read. I liked the way each character . Was portrayed giving insight into their own lives and emotions.
Published 14 months ago by Mrs. Barbara A. Ritchie
2.0 out of 5 stars boring...
I was waiting for something to happen, too much description and a badly handled subject with too many loose ends
Published 15 months ago by Fingordie
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok
This book was fine. Reasonably well written, but it wasn't the best I've ever read. Found the characters a bit annoying, to be honest!
Published 16 months ago by CathF
1.0 out of 5 stars Very forgettable book
I did not enjoy this book at all, and it took some effort to get through it. There is a vague story line about the impact war has on a family both now and in the past, but as... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Archie
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing
I struggled to finish this as left me feeling very negative it's a story well told but didn't leave me feeling at ease.
Published 16 months ago by Denise Sanderson
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