This is a short novel about the death of writer, Joseph Conrad, and set on three separate days in August 1924. I have to confess I knew nothing about Conrad, and it probably would have helped me a little to have known more, as I think the story might have gelled more and made a little more sense to me.
There is a huge list of characters at the beginning (no good for quick reference back to when you are reading on the Kindle!). For such a short novel this felt a little excessive. I also found myself getting a bit confused during the story and some of the turns of phrase and narrative felt a little odd to me.
However, I did still get some enjoyment out of the book and think it is an accomplished piece of work. I liked the 'typewriter', Lilian Hallowes best of all I think. A nice, quick read, but not quite for me.
on 29 March 2011
"Today" is an emotionally realistic, beautiful portrayal of grief, of the busy, strangely still days after a death.
The book opens with a "dramatis personae", which I found intriguing--it raises many questions and made me eager to find out how each character is attached to the other. From there we enter the life of Lillian Hallowes, secretary or "typewriter" to Joseph Conrad, as she prepares to go to John Conrad's (Joseph's son) birthday party. From then we experience Joseph's death and how this event reverberates through the family and other members of the household.
"Today" is beautifully written, it's deceptively simple and almost old fashioned with many layers...I found myself pondering the characters and their actions (past, present and future) for a while after I had finished the book. For a relative short book, "Today" is immensely satisfying, you get more from it than you'd imagine. Definitely recommended.
David Miller's 'Today' re-imagines the final days and the death of the writer Joseph Conrad and, as such, explores the nature of loss and bereavement. It is August 1924 and the Conrad family, along with close friends, are gathering at Oswalds, Conrad's country home, just outside Canterbury, for the Bank Holiday weekend and to celebrate the 18th birthday of Joseph's younger son, John. Invited to the party is Conrad's secretary, Miss Lilian Hallowes, an interesting and seemingly unassuming woman who "...understood she was not made for sex: she was made for work..." and it is partly through her commentary that we learn about the events of the story as it unfolds.
This slim, spare and beautifully written novel, looks at the shock of sudden death and its subsequent consequences, where the dynamics of family life are exposed through grief and bewilderment, and how amid the sorrow, there is a need for humour and for the realization that life goes on whatever. It must be said that, for a short book, there is a rather large cast of characters and it takes a while to work out who they all are, and how they are all related to each other - especially as the domestic staff enjoy an unusual familiarity with their employers - that said, I found this to be an involving, touching and, at times, a comical portrait of a certain kind of English family life. This is a quiet, but impressive debut from an author whose writing shows precision, restraint and, thankfully, humour (how can you resists lines such as: "his face looked as if it had recently been through a pencil sharpener"?) It will be interesting to see what David Miller decides on for his next novel and whether it will, like this, be a story set in a certain period and social class, or whether it will be something entirely different.