‘The Last Day’ book description
Every ending starts with a beginning; every beginning, an end. Boyd and Vita have been separated for six years when Boyd asks if he can move back into the house they still own, bringing with him his twenty-seven-year-old girlfriend, Honey. Of course Vita agrees: enough water has travelled under enough bridges since her marriage to Boyd ended and she is totally over him; nothing can touch her now. Boyd and Honey move in and everyone is happy, or so it seems. However, all three are keeping secrets. The book is about love in all its shades and how we can never predict when the last day of one kind of love, or the first day of another, will change everything.
Love is complicated, modern families are complicated, and a line cannot be drawn before and after. Whenever there is a last day, there is a first day too. That’s the theme of The Last Day by Claire Dyer, a deftly managed part-study of grief and mourning, part-teaser about how past events always affect the present.
Boyd and Vita were married, now separated; Boyd owns an estate agency, Vita paints portraits of pets. Both have new relationships. Added to the mix is Boyd’s elderly mother irascible mother. When Boyd has a big tax bill, he and his girlfriend move back in with Vita. The collision of these three people has unforeseen results. So much of what we see at the beginning of this novel is unexplained, unravelling as the pages turn. It is tightly written with a minimal cast of characters. When you think you’ve got it worked out, there is another twist. Everyone is hiding something.
At the heart of the book is Honey Mayhew, except that’s not her real name. She is the catalyst of change. Wearing charity shop clothes and a smiling assured attitude, she goes for an interview at Harrison’s Residential and gets the job. Her connection with Boyd, as they sit in the car as it goes through a car wash, is transforming. Dangling in front of her is the temptation of a new life with an older man. Conformity. Security. Love. But Honey, addicted to horoscopes and superstition, a young twenty-seven year old, is mercurial. At times she seems more like the feisty troublesome teenager she was not so long ago. What happens to Honey as she is thrown into the very adult world of Boyd and Vita’s romance/marriage/separation/amicable friendship changes everything; it wouldn’t be a novel if it didn’t.
Living together, none of the three have bargained for the re-stirring of old memories in the house, and the tugging of anger and regret. Honey, because she is young and inexperienced; Boyd, because he is emotionally blocked; and Vita, because she considers she has moved on with her painting and her convenient relationship with Colin next door. Dyer is good at portraying the small details, the daily things. How Honey sits upstairs in bed in the morning, hearing Boyd and Vita reassume their old morning habit of coffee and crossword clues. How Boyd buys his mother some handkerchiefs for Christmas. How Vita watches families play in the park, and her bones feel heavy in her body.
Claire Dyer’s previous novels were published by Quercus. She won the Charles Causley Poetry Competition 2015 and has two collections published by Two Rivers Press. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, and is a regular panellist on BBC Radio Berkshire’s Radio Reads. She lives in Reading. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter at @ClaireDyer1.
Read my review of Dyer’s The Perfect Affair.
To find out why The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows is Claire Dyer’s ‘comfort read’, read her ‘Porridge & Cream’ interview here.
‘The Last Day’ by Claire Dyer [UK: Dome Press]
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THE LAST DAY by @ClaireDyer1 https://wp.me/p5gEM4-38t #bookreview via @SandraDanby