They say three’s a crowd but when Boyd moves back in to the family home with his now amicably-estranged, Vita, accompanied by his impossibly beautiful twenty-seven-year-old girlfriend, Honey, it seems the perfect solution: Boyd can get his finances back on track while he deals with his difficult, ailing mother; Honey can keep herself safe from her secret, troubled past; and Vita can carry on painting portraits of the pets she dislikes and telling herself she no longer minds her marriage is over. But the house in Albert Terrace is small and full of memories, and living together is unsettling. For Vita, Boyd and Honey love proves to be a surprising, dangerous thing and, one year on, their lives are changed forever.
The art of fiction: alternative truths
If the definition of truth is: ‘the quality or state of being true’ and the definition of true is ‘in accordance with fact or reality/accurate or exact’ then we novelists have our work cut out because we spend most of our time and energy making stuff up!
However, there is another facet to this and that’s the gift of we can give our stories by making our characters, as real people in real life, be witnesses to and arbitrators of alternative truths.
I love reading books that do this: books that tell the same event through a number of pairs of eyes, each of which believe their version is the truth.
Take The Betrayals by Fiona Neill for example. The book’s pitch is: ‘None of them would forget that week on the wild Norfolk coast. Best friends Rosie and Lisa's families had always been inseparable. But that summer, Lisa had an affair with Rosie's husband Nick. And now, after years of silence, she sends Rosie a letter begging for help. A letter which exposes dark secrets. Daughter Daisy's fragile hold on reality begins to unravel. Teenage son Max blames himself for everything that happened that long hot summer. And Nick must confront his own version of events. There are four sides to this story. Who will you believe?’
What I loved most about this novel is how it asks us to confront our own version of events too. Where do our sympathies lie? Who do we believe and why? I reckon that if four different people read the book and compared notes directly afterwards, they’d each come up with a different answer.
As much as I love reading books like this, I also love writing them! I believe we all delude ourselves, rearrange facts and thoughts and feelings to suit our own consciences or beliefs. I know I do and so I allow my characters to do so too. In The Last Day there is no character more self-delusional than Vita. Perhaps more than the other two, she moved into my head and heart and I adored writing her because I never knew what was going to come out of her mouth next! You’d think I would, seeing that I made her up, but no! Her mouth and her mind became two separate entities and she spent the entire time I was writing the book thinking one thing and saying another. And the best bit of all was when she realised what she was doing and her head and heart aligned. That was a moment I will always savour.
And what this taught me was that, in these days of alternative facts in politics and the media, it is sometimes a comfort to hold onto the thought that we each carry within us our own version of the truth and we have the right and power and the ability to decide how and what we believe.
Beautifully written about the fragility of love and life this is a tender gentle novel that although at times appears slow doesn’t detract from its final destination.
Three beautifully crafted characters each likeable in their own way that seem to compliment each other. Full of ‘what ifs’ and ‘what could have been’ situations that hang in the air much like we all experience as we travel through life. Then the tragedies that happen along the way that shift the balance and drive people down different paths.
I found this novel sad and reflective but the ending felt right.
Not my normal bedtime reading but worth the experience for such insightful gentle handling - a well deserved 4 stars
I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.
Claire Dyer’s novels, The Moment and The Perfect Affair and her short story, Falling For Gatsby are published by Quercus. Her poetry collections, Interference Effects and Eleven Rooms, are published by Two Rivers Press.
She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and teaches creative writing for Bracknell & Wokingham College. She also runs Fresh Eyes, an editorial and critiquing service. In 2016, Claire penned and performed a poem for National Poetry Day, called The Oracle, for BBC Radio Berkshire. Claire’s new book, The Last Day, will be published by The Dome Press in February 2018.
Twitter: @Claire Dyer1
Twitter: @Claire Dyer1