These Days by Lucy Caldwell is a book which is on the longlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2023. It’s one that caught my attention so I borrowed a copy from my local library. It’s published by Faber Books and available now in all formats.
About the Book
Two sisters. Four nights. One City.
April, 1941. Belfast has escaped the worst of the war – so far. 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 Belfast Blitz, These Days is an unforgettable novel about lives lived under duress, about family, and about how we try to stay true to ourselves
I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know anything at all about the Belfast Blitz. Thanks to Lucy Caldwell’s vivid writing, I am now better informed of the suffering and destruction experienced by the people and city of Belfast in April 1941. The devastation and impact of the three main bombing raids are laid bare in all their horror.
This book isn’t just about the awful things which happened to the city though. We also get a detailed look into one ordinary family and how they experienced the Blitz. The story is told mostly through the thoughts of sisters Emma and Audrey and their mother, Florence, as well as a few minor characters. It did take me a bit time to settle into the style of writing since there are no speech marks, with thoughts and speech incorporated within the text. I soon got used to this though and didn’t notice it after a while.
Through each character, we see just how the bombing affected them. The three women in particular had very different experiences of love and the events made them reflect deeply upon them. Florence, although happily married, has always yearned for her first love. Audrey is swept along on a tide of emotion and Emma is deeply in love with another woman, a relationship which would be considered unacceptable. Lucy Caldwell writes very insightfully about the innermost thoughts and emotions of these three women.
These Days shines light on a part of Second World War history which is perhaps not so familiar to many readers. With engaging characters, you will read with your heart in your mouth as you hope that all will work out as well as it can for this family. Nobody is untouched by a war and through Lucy Caldwell’s elegant writing, we see how life is irrevocably changed for everyone in the family and in the city.
About the Author
Lucy Caldwell was born in Belfast in 1981. She is the author of four novels, several stage plays and radio dramas, and two collections of short stories: Multitudes and Intimacies. She won the BBC National Short Story Award in 2021 for ‘All the People Were Mean and Bad’. Other awards include the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the George Devine Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize and a Major Individual Artist Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018 and in 2019 she was the editor of Being Various
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