Book Review: These Days by Lucy Caldwell

About the Book:

April, 1941. Belfast has escaped the worst of the war – so far. Over the next two months, it’s going to be destroyed from above, so that people will say, in horror, My God, Belfast is finished.

Many won’t make it through, and no one who does will remain unchanged.

Following the lives of sisters Emma and Audrey – one engaged to be married, the other in a secret relationship with another woman – as they try to survive the horrors of the four nights of bombing which were the Belfast Blitz, These Days is a timeless and heart-breaking novel about living under duress, about family, and about how we try to stay true to ourselves.

Published by Faber

Released May 2022

My Thoughts:

Another high quality read. These Days was deceptive in its simplicity and delivered such a powerfully emotive read. As readers, with hindsight and the knowledge of history, we knew what was to come, which made certain scenes within this novel all the more poignant. A simple goodbye from one co-worker to another was loaded with premise; you just knew, without being told, that there would be a raid that night and that someone was going to die, and someone was going to be left behind.

‘And Florence thinks: We each die alone. That is the terrible truth, the tragedy of it. Whether we die by ourselves or with a dozen others, in a loved one’s arms or far from home.

The Somme: she looked it up on an old ordnance map once, and was taken aback to realise that it was a river, rather than a place, or at least the one had been named for the other. Somme: the awful, muffled, solemn toll of that word, which should have been a drowsy sound, the hum of a summer’s afternoon as you lay in a meadow with the person you loved. Somme: the name from a Celtic word, as it happens, such dreadful irony, meaning tranquillity.

Yes, she thinks: we must each face our death alone, rise up to meet it, untangling all of the cords, all of the tiny hooks by which our souls have sought to attach themselves, to anchor themselves, in these bodies and to others; all of them wrenching up through tender flesh, through reams of hopes and memories, useless now; and into the great nothing once more.’

Each of the Belfast air-raids increased in severity. The power of this novel lies in the manner in which we stroll through the everyday with the characters. From one raid to the next, the impact increases, yet they still plough on and live their lives as best they can, one foot in the day to day, the other planning ahead, sending children away, helping those in need. And then there is the grief, the devastating loss of losing someone in a split second. This novel is filled with such meaningful and languorously beautiful passages. I just loved it.

‘…For a while, I will be able to close my eyes and summon you up, or almost, but then it will go, you will go, and I will realise one day that I can no longer conjure your voice in my head. And all the things you told me, the things that mattered, and the things that hardly did at all, the things I let drift by in a sort of blissful haze, as if there’d be time, always, to catch them again. They will go too, until I’m left with hardly anything. And besides the weight of that loss, how am I to bear the weight of all the things I will never know? All the ways I’ll never have you. All that we could have, should have, might have, would have done together…’

This is a bit of a different WWII novel. Quiet, impactful, full of heart, loss and longing, love and endurance. I highly recommend it.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: These Days by Lucy Caldwell

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