22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Scissors Paper Stone reviewed, 1 Feb 2011
When Charles Redfern is knocked off his bicycle and lapses into a coma, his wife Anne calmly carries on preparing the casserole for the family's dinner, barley missing a beat as she adds her vegetables to the pot and leaves to simmer. The barely-concealed hostility of this simple action quietly ignites the rest of Elizabeth Day's absorbing first novel.
Day, best known for her work as an award-winning features writer for The Observer, has taken as her first subject the damage and betrayal of a family in crisis. As Charles lies prone and fallible in hospital, the relationship between his wife and their daughter Charlotte is thrust under an uncomfortable spotlight. The chip of ice in the heart of Graham Greene's best authors is likewise at the centre of this family triangle. Charles, for years the brute heart of the family, never veers into comic villainy, but is beautifully drawn, hovering precariously between a recognisable form of middle-class passive cruelty and sheer indifference. His behaviour, which has over time subtly and insidiously hardened and splintered Anne's youthful effervescence, is deftly and elegantly handled by Day. As the strained relationships are stripped away, the gradual and unsettling sense of unease builds to the novel's shocking climax which threatens to engulf and overwhelm the fragility of the characters, each craving a resolution that is seemingly always just out of reach.
Day's first novel is a triumph; a rich and rewarding novel from an author who has created realistic and moving characters, and who never overplays the difficult balance between tenderness and trauma. The novel dips effortlessly between the dramatic and the poetic, and lingers on long in the reader's memory.