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

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