TITLE : The Blind Light
AUTHOR : Stuart Evers
GENRE : General Fiction, Literary Fiction
FR RATING : ⭐⭐(2 Stars)
DATE OF PUBLISHING : 31st December 2020
TRIGGER WARNINGS : Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Battery.
DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley, Picador and Pan Macmillan for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
The Blind Light by Stuart Evers is a historical/literary fiction that tells us the story of Drum, Gwen, and their family. We go from 50s to the present following our characters through life-changing events that shape their lives. The story revolves mainly around Drum and Gwen and their kids Nathan and Anneka. Their story is intertwined with Carter, Drum’s friend from the service. The book is about their lives, how global events, atomic attacks, family, and relationships bring people together and how they break them apart. Carter and Drum meet during his time at the National Service as they prepare for the aftermath of the Atomic Strike. The two become fast friends and decide to protect their families from the atomic strike by staying in the underground bunker with all the facilities to sustain them. The time in the military leaves Drummond with damages that are far deeper, and traumatic than anything he expected. Fear of death and the impact of the global events that deeply affect personal lives certainly takes center stage in driving the narrative of Drum’s life forward. Gwen on the other hand a from being a barmaid to the wife of a deeply traumatized Drum takes us through a rather tremulous marriage and motherhood. The heavy-handed parenting, lack of trust, and deep-seated emotional baggage all lead up to promises made and promises broken in this slow-paced literary style story.
The story was different than anything I have read before. The descriptions of Doom town and the fear that engulfed Drum every moment felt very real. It was written in a way to make the readers feel the terror and panic that was going through the characters and how each f them dealt with it. The global events described brought the tenuous grasp of normalcy these characters had and how the events would further motivate their decisions in life as well. War and terror play a significant role in shaping Drum and Carter’s life. While Drum’s decisions impacted Gwen, she still holds onto their marriage strongly even when tempted to stray. She goes along with him and his whims oftentimes keeping the peace in their marriage and life. through all of this, she also keeps her rather chaste and complicated entanglements from her family a secret. The kids however are damaged despite the best intentions of the two parents and end up having a rather complicated family dynamics that threaten the very essence of their lives.
The themes in this book are quite bleak and rather depressing. The tone of the book is also quite dark and takes us up close & personal to the fears and horrors that reside in the hearts of these characters. At the same time it was interesting to explore these themes there were elements I didn’t particularly enjoy. There were certain moments, that were not fully developed. Some of the events didn’t make a lot of sense to me and their contribution to the story is still a big mystery. Also, certain subplots that were introduced didn’t support the story fully in my opinion. The narrative was disruptive at times going through new tangents that didn’t add any value to the story at all. One thing I didn’t understand is why the characters did what they did and what really motivated them to be the people they were becoming. While I could see the direction and the intent of the author, the execution of it fell through for me.
This was disappointing because I wished I could understand the characters and their reasons. The one thing that could have shifted the story for me is the development of the characters and their motivations. Not only is this story quite long, but it’s also one that’s very slow-paced. Even after the conclusion, I feel dissatisfied as to how things wrapped up because there are still questions in this book, to which I would love to learn the answers to.
Drum and Carter are from different social circles and the privilege is very much apparent in the life Carter leads. I still don’t know why Drum feels the connection towards Drum as their relationship is mostly one-sided. Drum is relying on Carter to protect his family and when Carter gives him an out Drum accepts it blindly. I really had a hard time understanding their friendship. The women and their actions are unclear and it makes no sense as to why they all did anything in the book. The kids equally confuse me and I feel like I missed parts of the book that would have helped me understand them better.
The pacing as I mentioned earlier is very slow and the book is quite long. So it took me a while to finish reading this. I am still unsure of a lot of things and I feel disappointed in that because I can see the potential in the story. I wished the character background and development was a bit more on point rather than being vague.
Overall, my experience with this book is it was a depressing read and left me sad and gloomy. For me to enjoy a book thoroughly I need to feel connected to the characters and be invested in their journey when it comes to historical/literary style fiction. If not this then I want to be able to understand them and neither of these happened to me. So I am saying this with a heavy heart that this book wasn’t my cup of tea. I wish I had a great time reading it and connecting with it, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. I gave the book 2 stars. Just because the story didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. I still think you should check it out for yourselves and see what you think. I would recommend this book if you are into long, slow-paced stories that take on a tumultuous journey through the ups and downs of life, friendships, marriage, and parenting.
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In the late 1950s, during his National Service, Drummond meets the two people who will change his life: Carter, a rich, educated young man sent down from Oxford; and Gwen, a barmaid with whom he feels an instant connection. His feelings for both will be tested at a military base called Doom Town – a training area where servicemen prepare for the aftermath of an Atomic Strike. It is an experience that will colour the rest of his – and his family’s – life.
Told from the perspectives of Drum and Gwen, and later their children Nathan and Anneka, The Blind Light moves from the Fifties through to present day, taking in the global and local events that will shape and define them all. From the Cuban Missile Crisis to the War on Terror, from the Dagenham strikes to Foot and Mouth, from Skiffle to Rave, we see a family come together, driven apart, fracture and reform – as the pressure of the past is brought, sometimes violently, to bear on the present.
With echoes of Marilyn Robinson, Don Delillo, Jim Crace and Jayne Anne Phillips, this is a powerful, ambitious, big yet intimate story of our national past and a brilliant evocation of a family and a country. The Blind Light will remind you how complicated human history is – and how hard it is to do the right thing for the right reasons.
Synopsis Source : Goodreads