Published by Penguin Books on December 31st 2015
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Source: From the publisher
1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.
Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.
Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.
Our Endless Numbered Days was a Waterstones book Club title all the way back in January 2016, and one I read back in my bookselling days. I even then wrote a review but apparently never got around to formatting and publishing it, so here’s a very late review!
I absolutely flew through Our Endless Numbered Days in 48 hours, knowing almost nothing when I went in except that it was a book club pick and therefore one we were hoping to be able to recommend to customers.
Dates only make us aware of how numbered our days are, how much closer to death we are for each one we cross off. From now on, Punzel, we’re going to live by the sun and the seasons.’ He picked me up and spun me around, laughing.’Our days will be endless.
The premise is fairly simple, and one I’ve seen done a few times in different ways: young child raised by survivalist father. Interestingly, and unusually compared to the other stories I’ve read, we actually first meet Peggy AFTER she returns to civilization, and the story covers both her time in the wild and her time after returning. The mystery of what happened to get Peggy back home & why her father left originally had me totally hooked – I desperately wanted to know more, and for the two days I was reading it I just didn’t want to put it down. The addictiveness is probably the strongest draw of the book for me, alongside Fuller’s s writing, which is totally atmospheric and full of quotable prose.
Unfortunately, while I liked the premise, I felt like the execution didn’t really work for me. By the end of the story I felt like I still had plenty of questions, and the ones that had been answered hadn’t been resolved in a satisfying way. I felt the twist was really predictable. In the same way as Moffat now has us constantly expecting a twist in Doctor Who, I felt like I was always on the lookout for one in Our Endless Numbered Days and that meant it just wasn’t surprising. I didn’t feel like any of the characters were particularly likeable. I felt that Fuller was trying to portray realistic, gritty people, but unfortunately everyone just came across as rather unlikeable instead. I felt bad for Peggy, but I found it hard to relate to her since she has nothing like a normal childhood, and her frame of reference is just so far removed from the norm, and I didn’t click with anyone else.
My father was fond of saying ‘If you own too many possessions sooner or later they start owning you.
I know plenty of people loved Our Endless Numbered Days but for me it was a bit of a disappointment. I really enjoyed the writing, and found the story completely addictive, but it’s no secret that I’m a very character-driven person, and the fact I didn’t connect with any of the characters was a real let-down. I wanted to see the story resolved to satisfy my own curiosity, rather than because I actually cared about any one in it.