Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller
*Warning – may contain spoilers*
Author: Clare Fuller
Publisher: Penguin Books
First published: 2015
Cover: Paperback (and it’s stunning!)
Blurb: Peggy is eight years old when her father takes her to live in a cabin in a remote European forest. There, he tells her that her mother and the rest of the world are gone.
Now the two of them must scratch a living from the earth: trapping squirrels, foraging for berries, surviving winter as best they can.
But it is easy to lose your way in the forest, to lose yourself. How long will Peggy believe her father’s story? How long can you stay sane when the world is lost? And what happens when you stop believing in everything?
History of my copy: I picked up Our Endless Numbered Days, along with Me Before You and In the Heart of the Sea at Tesco with my world book day vouchers. It was a complete cover buy; I hadn’t even heard of it before.
First of all, I think readers should be warned that, if you find it difficult to read about traumatic and distressing situations, this book really isn’t for you. Whilst a fantastic book, I did not expect it to be as bone-chilling as it was.
That being said, it is one of the best books I have ever read. Fuller’s writing is beautiful, using stunning imagery and language to weave a beautiful world for Peggy and her Papa to live in. I also enjoyed the sprinkling of references to Germany throughout the story.
Plot: The story jumps around a bit, and takes a few chapters to get used to. Peggy’s life as a child as she gets taken by her father to live in Die Hütte is juxtaposed with her being back home with her mother and brother after she escapes the forest. Her younger story starts with her spending the summer in the garden with her Survivalist father before he takes to away to live in the forest. Their journey is a little drawn out, but I think that was done with the intention of showing how long it took to get there, how isolated it is, and to emphasise how much of a child Peggy, who becomes Punzel, is at the time. The reader watches as Peggy grows up, and slowly starts to realise that her father is going mad. It climaxes with the arrival of Reuben, and with Peggy’s eventual escape from her world, discovering that the world hasn’t ended like her father said. The ending of this book is amazing, built with a fantastic plot twist that, whilst disturbing, throws a whole different light on the book and makes the reader realise just how bad isolation can be for a person’s mental health.
Setting: Fuller has created a beautiful world for the forest, and is a fantastic writer. It really feels like you are walking alongside Peggy as she makes her daily trips to the traps to see if any squirrels or rabbits have been caught. You can feel the snow in the winter, and see the river roaring past. I don’t think I have ever read a book so breathtakingly descriptive.
Characters: Peggy is one of my favourite main characters. She feels human. She doesn’t have ridiculous traits; she is far from perfect. You can taste her fear when she is scared, feel the rush of excitement when she discovers she isn’t stuck alone with her father. You also learn how vulnerable she is too.
Her father, on the other hand, is a fantastic portrayal of someone with a clear mental health problem. The relationship between him and his daughter doesn’t feel forced at all and, although I ended up hating him by the end of the book, I still loved the concept of him as a character.
It’s actually really hard to write about the characters without giving away the ending of the book, so I think I shall stop here for fear of spoiling it.
To read or not to read: Read. This book is so chillingly gripping and twisted that it just draws you in and you get lost in Peggy’s world. As mentioned before, this book covers some pretty dark and disturbing topics, so don’t pick it up expecting a happy fairy-tale story. That being said, it is definitely worth a read and I think it may need re-reading to see the story again in light of what you discover at the end.
Also, it ends almost on a cliff-hanger. Not enough to write a whole novel on, and not enough to drive you insane needing to know what happens, but just enough to perhaps want a short story, maybe even set a few years in the future, just to discover what happens to Peggy.