The Daves Next Door by Will Carver
|The Daves Next Door by Will Carver|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Stephen Leach|
|Summary: Provocative, meditative, suggestive – and many other words ending in “ive”, no doubt. A layered and incredibly clever story with an ensemble cast.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 276||Date: July 2022|
Five strangers come together in one moment as a suicide bomber prepares to detonate his vest on a London tube line. As their fates overlap, the story is told in backwards order, leading up to the fateful moment.
Summarising this one properly is going to be a hellish task. It was a challenging read for many reasons, not least because Carver’s writing is so determinedly unconventional.
The winding narration follows our various characters, all struggling to cope with their individual problems. I was particularly affected by Vashti, the tired nurse determined to prove she’s indifferent to everything despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. Overarching all their stories is the constant presence of the would-be bomber, a dangerous individual obsessed with the life-altering potential his weapon grants him. It really drives home to you the danger of stepping outside your door; the way in which seemingly random chance can alter the course of a life.
The narration goes in tiny bursts – a couple of sentences, new paragraph, a couple of sentences, new paragraph. It’s a writing style which, frankly, isn’t my cup of tea and that I really had to get used to. But I’ve always thought that you should look at these things in the context of what they’re trying to do – what something is, not what it isn’t – and I think that the intended effect was to get you on edge. It’s so brief and so punchy that I almost felt on guard, like I was standing in a busy area snatching glances at the people around me.
And this discomfort is something the book does very well indeed. It never allows you to have a settled opinion about any of the characters – the moment you do, something new comes to light which forces you to re-evaluate what you thought of them. Previously established fact is routinely called into question and suggested to be delusion; people presented as rough and unlikeable are redeemed. Being completely frank, I can’t say for sure that I fully understood the story because it’s so hard to say for certain what is real and what is not. The attacks themselves aren't really what the plot is concerned with; it's more what comes after - the rashness of people's responses, and the assumptions we make about why what happened happened. It’s a scathingly prescient condemnation of prejudice, of cynicism, and of supposition; and while it doesn’t leave you feeling outright angry at society, it’s pretty withering.
Even the end of the novel, while unexpected, is in question. The Daves Next Door is never preachy or sanctimonious – it prefers to leave that to the reader – but given the unreliability of everything that’s happened, one has to question whether how real the final scenes actually are. This is an often obtuse and sometimes downright maddening novel – but it’s masterfully inventive, with an utterly unique premise and execution. This is one that defies categorisation in every way.
Those interested in Will Carver’s other works should check out Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver – much darker than this one, it’s a tricky, perplexing, and unsettling read.
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