The End of the Day – Claire North

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The End of the Day – Claire North

Post by Graham on Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:01 pm

This is my third stab at writing a review of North’s book. The first was critical and dismissive. It took more than 100 pages before I was convinced it was worth reading, not because of the quality of the writing but more because of the subject matter and how she has chosen to organise it. Charlie is newly employed as the harbinger of death. He is an ordinary Joe, sent instructions from the head office in Milton Keynes, to bear witness to someone’s last hours before the head of the company arrives to repossess the expired soul. Not all Charlie’s visits end in an individual’s death. Sometimes he is called to the death of an idea or a world. Sometimes he is sent as a warning.

The style, seemingly disjointed stories of Charlie’s assignments interspersed with short vox pop chapters, eventually settles down to its theme nothing less than everything that is wrong, and right with the world and the humanity it contains. North wears her heart on her ink-stained sleeve. There are several threads pulling together these disparate incidents: an ordinary but fulfilling love, Emmi, waiting back in England: a high-flying businessman, Patrick Fuller, frequently called on by Charlie’s employer to be a witness, the development of a dialogue in the vox pop chapters between intolerance and liberal ideas.

The fantasy element is no more than a convenient hook and it is decidedly not a comic novel in the vein of Pratchett’s Discworld series. The fact of Death’s existence and Charlie’s role is simply accepted by everyone he comes across. They may welcome him (a good idea), reject him (a bad idea), attempt to bargain with him, interrogate, torture and maim him (very bad ideas), but they don’t object to the existence of his employer.

It is a strange book, something more than a meditation on death and only just shy of a polemic about our troubling world and I’m not sure it adds up to a novel. It is also a rewarding book, not a page turner for sure but eventually it gains traction. In the end it is re-assuring and I’m glad I persevered with it.

Graham
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