A Day and a Night and a Day by Glen Duncan
|A Day and a Night and a Day by Glen Duncan|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: This slim novel certainly packs a powerful punch and, due to Duncan's eloquent writing, gets right under the reader's skin. Centred around a mixed-race American - Augustus Rose - and how he deals with pivotal moments in his eventful life.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: March 2010|
|Publisher: Pocket Books|
Augustus Rose was brought up in New York, but not in a des res, in an altogether grittier part of the city. ... his childhood in East Harlem, darkness framing the blistered stoop, the blinding asphalt, the smell of garbage cans and urine. He's had an unfortunate start in life. Mother, white, father (unknown) black so that makes the young Augustus an in-between, a not-sure, a neither-one-colour-nor-the-other. Today, in the 21st century, no one would raise an eyebrow, bat an eyelid. But this novel is set in the 1960s where racial tensions abound. Yes, even in cosmopolitan cities such as New York.
Duncan see-saws back and forth between three key periods in Augustus' life. Pre and post A Day And A Night And A Day with the bulk of the novel centred on the time frame which gives the novel its title.
Augustus has had to endure various names throughout his life with as much grace as he can muster. For example, towards the end of his life when he finds himself living in a tiny, rural community far from the sidewalks of New York, the locals don't know what to make of their latest resident. The teenagers call him Captain Mandela, a handful of enlightened souls Mr Rose, the majority That Black Chap, a tiny minority matter-of-factly the Nigger or The Coon. What's in a name indeed? And those smart capital letters of Duncan's work a treat.
The beginning of the novel starts at the end ... so the reader has lots of questions, which are answered by degrees, throughout. The beginning is full of painful, poignant sentences all about the elderly Augustus.
Then, suddenly, the reader is taken to the harsh glare of an interrogation cell somewhere hot. Augustus is tortured. The reader is not spared the details. We are given minute, forensic-like description. Gripping and uncomfortable reading. In order to sustain all of this, Augustus, though wishing he was dead, uses all resources available to him to withstand the pain. Information is required. Will Augustus be able to hold out? Duncan's writing is powerful.
We're also introduced to Selina, love of Augustus's life. She just so happens to be white. Her parents are not at all happy with their daughter's relationship. What if there was a child? Unthinkable. Their bright, academic daughter is destined for better things in life - or is she? It seems as if the pair are set to face heartache, hearth-wrenching heartache. But the overall question is this, do they try to deal with it or does it haunt them into middle-age?
And the general question would be - when there is nowhere to hide, how do we, as individuals, deal with painful situations?
Duncan's intense descriptions of Augustus trying to deal with the unbelievable pain of torture, is sublime. The images stayed with me, long after I had finished reading the book.
Duncan also deals with global issues - Islam, the Vietnam war, the Iraq war, 9/11, racism. Huge issues of modern-day life which can have strong repercussions. Duncan asks us, the reader, to give them some thought. Duncan also has a fluency. A fluency in dealing with the uglier issues of life, which makes for an arresting, provocative and worthwhile read. Some of the dialogue is simply stunning. He has the art of literally making the reader catch his or her breath. Breath-taking.
This, in my opinion, is a literary tour de force. It stays with you long after you've read the last page. Highly recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy The Semantics of Murder by Aifric Campbell.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Day and a Night and a Day by Glen Duncan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Day and a Night and a Day by Glen Duncan at Amazon.com.
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