AUTHOR: A L KENNEDY
PUBLISHER: JONATHON CAPE
BLURB FROM THE COVER
Alfred Day wanted his war. In its turmoil he found his proper purpose as the tail-gunner in a Lancaster bomber; he found the wild, dark, fellowship of his crew and – most extraordinary of all – he found Joyce, a woman to love. But that’s all gone now – the war took it away. Maybe it took him too.
Before Hitler and the bombs he was a boy in Staffordshire, helpless to defend his mother, to resist and abusive father. The RAF gave him order, skills, another family and a way to be a man. It taught him how to burn through lifetimes on night ops and brief, sweet leaves, surviving the unsurvivable. But it didn’t prepare him for capture, for the prison camp and the chaos as the war wound down. It didn’t prepare him for an empty peace.
Now it is 1949 and Alfred is doing the impossible again, winding back time to see where he lost himself. He has taken the role of a POW in a film. Shipped out to Germany and an ersatz camp, he picks his way through the clichés that will become all that is left of his war and begin to do what he never dared – to remember. He is looking for some semblance of hope, trying to move forward by going back.
Alfred was growing a moustache.
Day just didn’t work for me. I really wanted to enjoy it. I’ve wanted to read more of Kennedy since I loved Everything You Need. I’ve seen Day in the library numerous times and thought it sounded great. Kennedy doesn’t pull it off with Day.
STRUCTURE: Kennedy doesn’t number the chapters in Day. The chapter started a few lines down from the top so you knew when you were starting a new one. This niggled me a bit. I like to flick through to the next chapter so I can judge how long it is so I know if I have enough time to read it. Day has a lot of time shifts and the narrative moves from Alfred making the movie back to various memories of his experiences in the war. The transition was not as smooth as it could have been. I got a bit lost a few times and took a few pages to figure out where I was. Kennedy uses a mix of third and second person often in the same chapter. This does not work and made the whole narrative a bit disjointed. I really enjoyed the writing at times but there are fairly large sections when the whole novel becomes a bit of a rambling, incoherent mess.
PLACE: I didn’t get any real impression of the world Kennedy was trying to create in Day. I thought I would enjoy the time shifts to Alfred’s experiences in the war. I didn’t get any real sense the war was happening. It was all a big vague and wishy-washy. I wanted to read a world so real that I felt like I was part of the war. Kennedy doesn’t pull this off. I didn’t feel the world Kennedy tried to create in Day. It was too bland.
CHARACTERISATION: The whole narrative is told from Alfred’s perspective. I found this suffocating at times. Kennedy makes it clear Alfred has been traumatised by the war. He is damaged. Kennedy doesn’t make it clear enough why he has been damaged. He was a prisoner of war but Kennedy failed to make me care enough about him. The other characters including Joyce and his crew in the war are little more than blurry outlines. I got no real sense of who any of these people were. Alfred wasn’t enough to carry the story. I was indifferent to his plight. I found the constant switching from second to third person very intrusive. I have no issue with a writer creating a complex narrative. This can be excellent and powerful if done well. This is not the case with Day. The thoughts in italics also grated. I just didn’t like Alfred enough and the other characters were bland nobody’s.
PLOT: I wasn’t all that impressed with the story Kennedy offers in Day. Alfred decides to get over the horror of being a prisoner of war in World War II by acting as a prisoner of war in a movie about World War II? Huh? I didn’t buy this premise. I found it weird that Alfred was going to star in a movie only a few years after the war ended. I just thought this was odd. I think Day would have been stronger if Alfred starred in the movie years after the war. I also found his age odd. He’s only 25. I didn’t find his story compelling enough. I thought Day would be a good read about the horrors of war and post-traumatic stress disorder. Kennedy falls to deliver.
The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer