Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce

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Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A man is banished from his homeland and ends up, safe and well, on an island. Life is bearable (just) until something/someone sees him yearning for the old days and the people he's left behind, but is he seeing all this through the prism of rose-tinted spectacles?
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Clerkenwell Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1846688003

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The front cover of this debut novel caught my full and undivided attention with Alone, ten years on an island, until one day... I couldn't wait to start reading. We meet the central character - we don't know his name just yet and in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter. He's living alone on an island, somewhere in the world. Is it the past, the present or even the future? As the story developed I decided on the former.

The man is in his middle years and is in good health. He's also resourceful and has made out a daily rota of chores for himself - perhaps to keep from going mad as well as to help pass the time constructively. And as his lonely life here is told to the readers in some detail by Bruce, I did wonder why this individual decided to remain alive. Why not end it all? End all this hard and haphazard daily foraging for food and his makeshift shelter in a damp cave.

We now learn that his name is Bran and he tells us the story of why he is on this island. This boggy piece of land which is gradually slipping into the ocean in the middle of nowhere. He tells us that The island is a silent place, for example, but it's the pervading dampness and lack of sunshine which caught my attention. Not only has Bran managed to adapt very well to his circumstances, but he's lived here for a whole decade. He also takes note that he could be here for another twenty.

And gradually we find out about Bran. In his old life, he was a man of some importance. And important people often have to take important and sometimes unpopular decisions. And so it was for Bran. He comes across as a man of the people - his people (whoever they are) and also a man who thinks of the greater good. But something has gone dreadfully wrong somewhere. Back to his story where, as this leader, violence and bloodshed occurred. Often towards innocent and vulnerable individuals. And as Bruce gives his readers these snippets of a previous brutal life, I was reminded quite strongly of Darwin's theory concerning the survival of the fittest. Bran seemed to take it a stage further and decided to eliminate the weakest members of society. Consequently he made some enemies which resulted in his forced exile.

And at times when Bran is particularly low, he yearns for his former life. He wonders what has happened to those who were near and dear to him. The pull is so strong at times that he wants to return, even at the risk of death. Then one day something happens on this island where nothing has happened for the last ten years and everything is turned upside down...

I found Bruce's style to be effective and often poetic. He's certainly chosen a terrific narrative which I think is a crowd-pleaser. Just now and again I felt it a little pedantic, especially the first half of the novel. Then it picked up again in the second half which is markedly different in both pace and location. Bruce is good at teasing his readers, at giving us tiny morsels of Bran and his situation. I simply wanted to know lots more - and sooner. Some readers with a short attention span may veer off a little and if I'm being perfectly frank the very slow build-up, while I can see why Bruce chooses to do so, didn't quite work for me. Overall, I expected to enjoy the book more than I did, I'm afraid. Therefore, an average read for me.

Thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

If you enjoyed Wall of Days, you'll also like The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa.

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Buy Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce at Amazon.com.


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