Winner of the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize
1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children, and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.
Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end, which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.
Her life is reduced to a piano that makes music but no sound and a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is everything.
©2015 Claire Fuller (P)2015 Audible, Ltd
"Like all good fairy tales, this is a book filled with suspense and revelation, light and shadow and the overwhelming feeling that nothing is quite as it seems in the Hillcoats’ lives. It’s spellbinding, scary stuff." (The Daily Express)
"Fuller handles the tension masterfully in this grown-up thriller of a fairytale, full of clues, questions and intrigue." (The Times)
What a beautifully written book – I think so far this has been my most memorable read for 2017, and one that will stay with me for a long time to come.
In the summer of 1976, eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat is growing up in a spacious house in London as the much-loved daughter of a famous concert pianist and a survivalist father. All is well in her world until her mother Ute goes away on a concert tour to Germany, leaving her in the care of her father James, who seems to slowly unravel the longer Ute is away for. Soon James is teaching Peggy survival skills instead of sending her to school , and the pair are living in a tent in the garden, living off squirrels and other foraged foods. After a heated argument with one of his survivalist friends, James packs a few belongings into a rucksack and takes Peggy away for a “holiday” to a remote mountain cabin in the European Alps away from civilisation. After sitting through a violent thunderstorm one night, James tells Peggy that the rest of the world has perished, and that they are the only two human survivors left. Thus, life in the wilderness alone with her father becomes Peggy’s reality for the next nine years, until a twist of fate finally delivers her back into civilisation.
I absolutely loved Peggy, and she became so real to me that it felt like I lost an old friend when the book finished. Her voice is innocent, fresh and original, drawing me in from the first page, taking me by the hand and luring me into her world. Through Peggy, Fuller managed to create such vivid scenery in my mind that I could see “die Hütte” quite clearly in front of my eyes, hear the rustling of the wind in the trees and the soft gurgle of the river in the distance. I didn’t just read this book, but I feel like I LIVED it, transported like Aladdin on a magic carpet to faraway lands. Days after finishing it, I still miss being part of Peggy’s journey. Simply magical, beautiful, tragic & heartbreaking all at the same time.
This book is not for people who want action or suspense, but its power lies in the small everyday observations and feelings that make up Peggy’s reality, and Fuller has a way with words that creates true-to-life characters and an atmospheric setting until it seems like a living, breathing being itself. Her descriptions of nature were stunning, as they were raw and brutal at times. Fuller’s account of James’ slow spiralling deeper and deeper into mental illness was well drawn and realistic, creating an undercurrent of danger and impending doom throughout the novel. At times I felt like biting my nails as the story unfolded, fearing for Peggy. Whilst I had a premonition of the ending to come, I was still saddened and shocked by the full extent of Peggy’s ordeal.
I chose the audio version of this book, and a huge credit goes to Eilidh L. Beaton, for her wonderful narration of the story. With her amazing ability to give each character their own unique voice, including authentic foreign accents, she brought the characters to life for me and made my daily commute a pleasure I looked forward to every day.
"Disturbing and compelling"
A disturbing story of a child victimized by the actions of her selfish, unfit parents. It is quite compelling, but also difficult to read due to the subject. Experienced readers will figure out the final revelation(s) way before the end, but this is still a compelling story, well narrated.
"Repetitive, disturbing, and melodramatic"
When I finish a book like Our Endless Numbered Days, I wonder what I missed that caused me to only give two stars to a book that has a much higher overall rating, and that so many readers seem to love. The best explanation I could come up with is that there was some sort of terrible electronic glitch at Audible where other readers got the well-written, brilliant, incredible version of this book, and I got the repetitive, disturbing, maddening, just plain awful version, because we clearly read different books.
If you're in the mood for an overly long, repetitive book, full of irresponsible, selfish, and completely crazy adults, a questionable protagonist, written by an author that withheld information from the reader until the end of the sordid tale to make the ending more melodramatic, then you might enjoy Our Endless Numbered Days. Even a decent narration and some above average prose couldn't save this one for me.
"Insanity in the forest....."
Beautiful story that becomes a lesson in survival in the end. I loved this listen, the writing was perfect for an audiobook, very descriptive and picturesque. The narration was beautiful. The narrator is very good at individualizing the characters and has a beautiful English accent. This story is one of those I wanted to listen to again after learning the conclusion. This story is not a happy one but a lesson of one little girl's survival both mentally and physically and whether she was successful can be debated.
I couldn't wait to get to the dismal ending of this one. The narration is in the voice of a little/young girl and it became very tedious. Many parts drag on and on to no benefit of the storyline. In one section the characters go kiting and eventually it flies off and away, like this book should do.
"Beautiful writing, but uncomfortable with the treatment of disturbing subject matter"
I knew nothing about this book when I picked it up.
I feel I should start off by saying that the 3 stars for writing in this review, rather than 4 or 5, are more related to story content than anything else.
Fuller's writing is spare and beautiful, and the structure of her novel intersects deftly with the psychology of her main character, the voice of the story. I think Fuller has a gorgeous skill with language and is a great storyteller.
(spoiler)However, I didn't appreciate how the violence & rape perpetrated on the young girl at the center of the story was treated. The story is disturbing and these events definitely fall in the context of a dark mystery, but it feels like they are being employed as devices, or in other words, for the purpose of entertainment.
I'm missing empathy, insight, compassion from the author outside of the voice of the narrator/main character in the telling of this story.
The voice actor for this audible version was great.
"The rest of the world has gone."
Children are the first victims, when their parents go to war and the abuse is always inflicted with love and merciless brutality. This book depicts a particularly cruel and savage war, where a child is taken hostage into the apocalyptic fantasies of her father, and is made to disappear into the wild, into her imagination and her deepest survival instincts.
We meet Peggy, aged 17, in London with her mother, and a younger brother she never knew, till her return from the forest; where her father kept her for nine years. She remembers and tells the story from her point of view, she is an innocent, imaginative little girl, that loves her mama and her papa like all children, and wants to believe in their love. She tells us of her survival in a forest where her father has made her believe is the last place on earth and they are the only survivors.
Beautifully written, well described reality of living outside of society, with minimum resources and no other human contact. We see the awakening of a child into autonomy under the most twisted of circumstances, breaking free into her world and the world.
Fascinating idea. Hauntingly possible.
Beautifully narrated. Recommended to the romantic in us. Seen through the eyes of a sweet natured young girl innocently believing in the reality of her fathers vision.
"Intriguing, thought-provoking, with a good twist."
I chose this book because it has won prizes and has been praised by many critics and book bloggers I respect. It is not the kind of novel that I would normally pick up in a library or bookshop but I'm very glad that I gave it a go.
The story concerns Peggy who is taken from her home in London, under mysterious circumstances, to live in a cabin the woods ( in Germany? ) by her Survivalist father. She is eight years old at the time of her 'abduction'. One night, while her concert pianist mother is away on a concert tour, she overhears snatches of a quarrel between her father and his long-term friend and fellow survivalist Oliver. Their departure from the family home follows almost immediately after this. When Peggy escapes from the cabin and her father and is reunited with her mother, she is seventeen and discovers that she has an eight-year-old brother whom she has never known.
The bulk of the tale tells of the endless numbered days in the cabin with her father, surviving in the natural world with no modern conveniences and believing a story , told by her father, of a natural catastrophe which has left only the two of them alive. The relationship between the two of them undergoes many stresses and changes and when Peggy discovers the possibility of another person living nearby she begins to challenge the version of life her father has constructed for her. Puberty begins to rear its head too and Peggy is further confused. A descent into mental illness (for one or both of them)seems inevitable and a crisis arises between father and daughter, leading to tragedy and a dramatic final denouement.The story starts quite slowly but builds to a very dramatic end, with a twist which left me open-mouthed. I had thought I had worked out where the story was going but there was a sting in the tale that I did not see coming.
The narrative reads like a modern fairy tale in some respects and the narrator did well to keep me hooked to a storyline which for some periods was a bit light on plot. But overall, I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good yarn and an unexpected ending.
Absorbing and beautifully written.
Simple but thought provoking tale with just enough clues to provide answers if you concentrate on the smaller details.
"An extraordinary and gripping listen"
This book kept me wondering until the very end: why did they leave the civilised world and go to the forest? What makes a man take his daughter out of her young life to live far away from any human being in the middle of nowhere? And how can a young girl like Peggy cope with a situation like this? And at the very end of the book when the whole secret was revealed I was even more taken aback...
I must say that this is one of the best books I've ever listened to. It's gripping, it's unexpected, it's unputdownable. Excellent work and highly recommended!
Resourceful, crafty, absorbing.
Peggy/Punzel, because we see everything through her eyes, and though there are clues which make it somewhat easy to guess the awful between-the-lines truths she's not directly telling us, still we want to hear it from her side, and will her to fight on. Because she is an infant for most of the story, you forgive her naivety - but can't help wanting to slip into the pages and tell her to run away!!
Soft, feminine, commanding.
This Be the Verse!
Reminded me a lot of the Life of Pi, as the protagonist goes through a remarkable and unbelievable experience, one with very little chance of surviving, but does survive the most harrowing of dangers, with only their wits and imagination to guide them. The first person perspective makes for a deeply absorbing read (along with the past/present disjointed timeline, feeding you clue-crumbs to make you even hungrier for the big answers), and the reader can't help but imagine how they would cope in Peggy's place. Despite the grim subject matter, having a sympathetic central character gives the book a strong emotional core, and it's worth sticking with (but I agree that it perhaps ends too abruptly...).
Let's say ... The Revenant meets Room meets Girl on The Train... a gripping listen, very well narrated.
"Extraordinarily gripping unfolding tale of deception & survival"
I knocked off one star for the slightly off-putting male voices adopted by the reader, otherwise excellently told. The outcome brilliant, half suspected but only towards the end and even then.. a shock. Descriptions through the eyes of a growing learning struggling child: of nature both beautiful and terrifying and encounters tough and tender..
"Kept me gripped by the unfolding story throughout."
It was a slow start but gradually unfolded into a gripping tale of a child's life dominated by her survivalist Father's obsession, and self centred revenge against her mother. Although I could tell the awful truth before the reveal, I felt that it was handled with sensitivity and a skill in story telling that lacked gratuitous sensationalism. It was also full of brilliant details of the struggle to survive off grid. I now feel I don't know what to listen to that can follow that!
"Great story, let down by the telling"
This is the first Audible book that I thought I'd be better off reading myself!
The story was really really appealing, I love the survivalist themes, the detail and the characters. But felt from the start that the narration was really overdone!
The narrator had a good crack at the accents, not an easy thing to do but also really distracting. The main characters voice was really over-egged IMO, irritated me and capped any empathy/sympathy I felt to the character, which had the knock-on effect on my enjoyment in the story. Shame as its a great dramatic tale!
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