Apologies, dear readers, for the lapse in posting regular book reviews. I’m sporting a wrist injury that makes typing unwieldy and I’m supposed to be resting it, but I couldn’t stand it any longer. I have a couple of books that I finished reading some time ago, and I just needed to post at least one review before starting a new book.
The exploration of death through the lens of friendship as opposed to an intimate family member is a concept that really appealed, and I feel isn’t a perspective that is oft portrayed. The premise and plot of Days of Awe are sound – the death of her best friend leaves Isabel feeling adrift, lost and unable to reconcile the gawping emptiness in her life, and she seeks desperately find an answer as to why her friend was taken from her. Was it really just an accident? Or was there something more sinister behind Josie’s death?
Throughout the book there is a constant play on the theme of accident versus sinister actions, which drives the narrative forward and provides a good deal of tension. It succeeds in keeping the reader guessing, wanting to discover the answer, but when the answer is finally revealed, I found it to be anticlimactic. Rather than sizzle, I felt somewhat deflated and let down.
Days of Awe has a strong and powerful back blurb that unfortunately the story itself doesn’t quite live up to. Lauren Fox is a good writer, and there are some really great moments of creative writing and colourful expressions such as a ‘the herd of wild minivans’ and ‘Her rusty 11-year-old Toyota skidded off the slick road like a can of soup rolling across a supermarket aisle.’
However, this is often this is clouded by overwriting and long rambling sections that slow the book down causing it to lose momentum in places. For example, in one part Isabel contemplates dating a much older man, and in the spur of the moment she suggests that they should go back to his place. Whilst in the kitchen she toys with the idea of whether or not she will go through with her invitation of shagging her senior date and there is a delicious to-fro moment where she considers that fact that he is so much older, what the repercussions would be on her marriage (despite the fact that her husband has moved out) when the story segues into a flashback that goes on and on and on. The flashback provides a good deal of backstory about Isabel’s life and events from the past, but it goes on for pages and pages, that by the time we are flipped back into the kitchen I’d completely forgotten that Isabel was deciding whether or not to fall into bed with her new older friend.
These meandering sections aside, Fox does convincingly portray the stages of grief, the hole that is left behind when a loved one dies, how it lingers and refuses to go away when others have long moved on. She paints an all-to-real picture of the relationship between a mother and almost-teenage daughter, the scathing pre-teen disdain, and the tensions that arise out of separating from a partner and the change in family dynamics. She throws into this emotional mix moments of humour, my favourite being where Isabel purposely drags her oil-smeared fingers along the silk scarf of one of Josie’s work colleagues, who has now also moved into Josie’s husband’s bed, leaving a trail of oily fingerprints in retribution.
While I wouldn’t say that Days of Awe was ‘daring’, ‘dazzling’ or ‘luminous’ – I think the copywriter was a little too enthusiastic, this doesn’t match the theme of the book and it’s suggestive of fun and frivolity that simply isn’t a part of the story. I would say that it is confronting, that the book manages to portray the deep despair and grief that accompanies death, and that Fox tempers this with moments of joy, wicked snippets of humour, of revealing the multifaceted nature of people and no matter how well you think you know someone they can still surprise you.
Note: I received a my copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Days of Awe by Lauren Fox (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2015)