When The Lights Go Out by Carys Bray – A Review

Publisher: Hutchinson

Publication Date: 7th May 2020 (Kindle/Audio)

I read A Song For Issy Bradley by Carys Bray some time ago now and really enjoyed it. It still sticks in my mind now. Particularly the opening chapters.

When I saw Carys had a new book out I knew I had to read it and when I read the premise it only strengthened this feeling. Luckily I was kindly sent a proof copy! Publication for this book has been pushed back due to current hideous virus situations but the audiobook and kindle edition are out now I believe.

When The Lights Go Out tell the story of the Abram family, Chris, Emma and their two teenage sons Dylan and James. They live in a seaside town in the North West of England and times are currently hard for Chris job-wise.

Chris is a gardener and has been losing copious amounts of business due to the fact that it hasn’t stopped raining for sometime. He is unable to work as he usually would and starts to become fixated on the changing weather and environment. Convinced that water levels will rise and become unmanageable, Chris’s anxiety levels start to rise too. So much so that he starts stockpiling food items and non-perishable supplies in order to keep his family safe should an environmental disaster threaten their lives.

Emma for her part has always been a bit of an activist in her youth but since marriage and children has taken her activism to a more low key level. Growing their own vegetables, recycling, eating frugally and healthily.

When Chris starts to become fixated on his anxieties the fractures begin to show in the Abrams marriage and their previously solid foundations begin to crumble and erode. Their conflicting interests and priorities only serve to push Emma and Chris that much further apart.

This all plays out in the run up to Christmas where one fateful night an annual family party takes place and doesn’t end as anyone expects. Forcing Emma and Chris to make some difficult choices.

What I love about Carys Bray is her innate ability to write about the ordinary family dynamic against the backdrop of extraordinary circumstances. As much as Chris’s change in attitude and actions have consequences for the family they still have to rub along together and deal with the humdrum aspects of domesticity. That’s not to say that this story is dull, not at all! I feel it perfectly depicts family life and I’m here for that!

The interaction between family members was so true to life at times that I cringed a little. There were scenes between Emma and her Mother In Law Janet where they were both trying so hard to be polite but coming off as passive aggressive. It was very amusing! There are various drops of lightheartedness within the narrative which serve as pinpricks of light in what is otherwise quite dark subject matter.

I also must make mention of the two sons Dylan and James. Being teenagers I was dubious (we all know I’m non too keen on the teens!) however the characters of the two boys were perfectly nailed. I have a 14 year old son and could see some of his character traits in Dylan and James, the caustic humour, the inappropriate dinner table conversation. They were not perfect (who is!!) but I really enjoyed their dynamic with each other and within the family unit.

I was not expecting what happened at the Christmas party AT ALL. It was one of those ‘is this really going to happen?’ Moments but in a really plausible way. No over dramatics, no big scenes just something terrible yet believable happening.

The disintegration of the marriage of Emma and Chris which starts in the most subtle of ways and flits back to their earlier happier life together was one of the main pulls for me. Emma trys her hardest to understand where Chris is coming from with his fears and Chris makes what he thinks are the right choices to educate or scare Emma into coming around to his way of thinking.

‘If I imagine grandchildren, it’s only to pity them. They’ll be born into God knows what. There’ll be a new Dark Age, and they’ll live through it. If I could, I’d have the boys sterilised.’

How she longs to pull him out of this; to lower a rope and winch him to safety, but he doesn’t want to be rescued, or even reassured, he wants to pull her in after him.

I cannot fault Carys Brays writing and I really got swept away (no pun intended!) with this family’s life. It’s not a high octane, fast paced book by any stretch of the imagination and the subject matter makes for quite depressing reading at times but the gentle humour and real moments of tender interplay between family members is so heartwarming.

I really enjoyed this book and found it to be a quick read. Give it a whirl!

Thank you as always to the publisher for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx


A Little Lockdown Reading Update.

Ey up

How’s life round your gaff at the minute? You surviving? You managing to read?

I didn’t have a review scheduled for today so I thought I’d come atcha with a little reading update. Have a quick chin wag about my reading since lockdown started and show you what I’m currently reading.

Hope that’s alright with you lot?

So, since lockdown began, I, (like a lot of people) have struggled with my concentration levels when it comes to reading and in particular, writing.

In the initial week or two after lockdown I really read very little and wrote absolutely nothing. I just felt a bit numb to it all and coupled with working from home and trying to homeschool my two kids, life was stressful! (Let’s not even add in the anxiety surrounding the dreaded Rona!).

I think us readers fell into one of two camps.

1. I can’t read ANYTHING. (Because the world is shit).


2. I am reading EVERYTHING (Because the world is shit).

I was firmly in camp 1 hoping to claw my way over to camp 2. I thought the way to do that would be to read some short stories. Surely short bursts of fiction would be manageable for my dire concentration levels, right?


Short stories were NOT holding my attention one iota and had the complete opposite effect of what I was aiming for.

I then picked up a couple of chunky books, one of which had been on my shelf for AGES (The Parentations by Kate Mayfield which is brilliant historical fiction by the way and I would defo recommend). This was my breakthrough and totally pepped me up.

I obviously needed longer books to absorb myself in!

I have read some absolute corkers over the past few weeks but I will be saving my opinions on those books until I review them.

Let’s move on to what I’m reading (and listening to) at the moment shall we?

I have to hold my hands up and say I’ve overstretched myself completely in the multi-reading stakes…..I can cope reading around 3 books at a time as long as they are all vastly different. 4 would be my absolute limit. So I find myself today (foolishly!) having 6 books on the go!


Let’s have a little butchers at them eh?

First up we have Pilcrow by Adam Mars Jones. This chunky bugger has been on my shelf for at least a year or more I reckon. It tells the story of a young man from when he was a child and suffered an illness which saw him being prescribed strict bed rest for a long time. It is set in the 1950’s when growing up gay and disabled was far from easy. At the moment I am only around a quarter of the way through and I find that it’s the kind of book that you can dip easily in and out of and still pick up very nicely where you left off, helped by the fact it is told in quite short snappy sections. It’s funny and has a lot of heart and I’m looking forward to carrying on with it. There is a second instalment called Cedilla which is equally as chunky!

Then we have This Taste For Silence by Amanda O’Callaghan which is a short story collection. This is a tricky one because I’ve read around 4 or 5 of the stories and whilst I know I enjoyed them at the time I wouldn’t be able to tell you what they’re about now! I will carry on and finish it and hope that it is just Corona Brain causing me to be so forgetful!

Next up is Rawblood by Catriona Ward. I read Little Eve last year and absolutely loved it! Rawblood is everything I love in a book, gothic, dark and haunting historical fiction set against the backdrop of an old house on Dartmoor. Bloody brilliant!

Next up we have Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker. This book is BLOWING MY MIND. I saw it and was immediately drawn to the cover! It is non-fiction telling the story of the Galvin family, Don and Mimi Galvin and their twelve children. Ten boys and two girls. Six out of the ten boys were diagnosed with schizophrenia and this book explores the question of whether this mental illness can run in families. It really is fascinating!

Then we have two audiobooks that I’m alternating between, one fiction and one non-fiction.

Fiction wise I’m listening to Grown Ups by Marian Keyes. I love Marian on Twitter, she’s such a lovely woman. This book wouldn’t normally be one I’d pick up but having seen so many of you enjoying it, I thought I’d give it a go. I will be honest and say I stopped listening very quickly BUT hear me out……it was nothing to do with the book. I listen to my audiobooks on quite a high volume and I found myself tuning in far too much to the breaths that Marian takes in between sentences. As daft as it sounds, this then made me think about my own breathing and it threw me out! ANYWAY, never fear! I went back to it (albeit at a lower volume) got over my stupid self and am now really enjoying it.

Lastly we have Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin. I have developed a low key obsession with Shirley Jackson of late (which you’ll see when I show you some books I’ve recently purchased!). I’m not very far into this one so I’ll report back when I’m further along!

So there we have all the books I’m currently reading/listening to.

Let’s end on the books I’ve bought recently……because we’re all feverishly buying new books right? WHAT ELSE ARE WE GOING TO DO?!?

Here are a few of my recent purchases (see what I mean about the Jackson obsession?!!). The covers of the Penguin Classic Shirley Jackson books are what dreams are made of quite frankly!


On that note I will love you and leave you.

Please do let me know how you’re getting on during these proper tricky times. Are you reading healthy amounts or has your motivation upped and left?

Whatever you’re doing, concentrate on yourself and keep safe.

See you all soon when I’ll have some lovely family members bringing some guest content……

Big love x

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

The Discomfort Of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld – A Review

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Publication Date: 5th March 2020

I’d seen bits and pieces about this book online and had half an eye on it. I was reading a review of it one day that opened up by saying it was ‘odd’ and ‘dark’…….case closed. I knew I had to get my hands on it.

This was a ‘lockdown’ purchase for me. Which basically just means me using the lockdown of the country as an excuse to buy books a plenty! I started it as soon as it arrived because I was in the mood for dark…..glutton for punishment.

The Discomfort Of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is translated from the Dutch and tells the story of our ten year old protagonist Jas and her family who live on a dairy farm. When tragedy strikes and Jas loses her older brother to a terrible accident (not a spoiler, this happens at the start of the book) her life and her family dynamic totally changes, leaving her and her siblings struggling to grow up.

Her mother is devastated by the loss of her son and Jas feels a certain guilt too surrounding someone thoughts she had about him on the day he died. Her mother retreats into herself and begins to limit her food intake, cultivating a serious eating disorder. Her father struggles with bringing up his remaining three children whilst battling issues with the dairy farm and his precious herd and livelihood.

Jas, her older brother and younger sister are pretty much left to navigate their lives themselves without much parental support. They have no support with their own grief and are sidelined whilst their parents drift further and further apart. Jas is desperate to bring her parents back together and unite them again and in her own childish ways feels like she can instigate this and life will somehow improve.

This is very much a coming of age story against the backdrop of grief and it’s intrinsic effects on a whole family unit. It is extremely dark but is shot through with a wry childish humour courtesy of Jas. There are some extremely uncomfortable issues discussed in this book and in the interests of trigger warnings I have to say there is an element of incest. It is viewed through the childish eyes of Jas our narrator, which makes it all the more uncomfortable. I feel it’s only fair to give you that warning.

There is a lot of unpleasant imagery in this book. There is a huge focus on body parts, particularly the bottom, be that bovine or human! Infact when reading it I tweeted this and without stating specifically what the book was, quite a few people knew straight away what it was!:

It’s difficult to say I ‘enjoyed’ this book but I did race through it. A sure sign I’m enjoying a book obviously. I have sat and thought about who I would recommend it to and it’s tricky! It’s by no means a walk in the park! If you’re a fan of dark stories, unusual and compelling child narrators and are ok with animal cruelty/incest and other uncomfortable subject matters I would say give it a whirl!

For sure it has some beautiful writing. I even went back over a few paragraphs and read them again. There was one particular section relating to grief that rang so true with my own experiences that it nearly took my breath away.

Listen, is it a perfect book? No. Did I ‘enjoy’ reading it? Yes! I would maybe issue an ‘approach with caution’ warning but would say give it a try and see for yourself……oh and brace yourself for the darkest of dark endings!

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx