Amanda and Clay are on holiday with their two teenage children, a secluded house away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Their quiet retreat is interrupted when an elderly black couple turn up at their door. They say they are the owners, they say there has been a blackout in New York. No internet, no phone signal, has something happened or are they lying?
What if you were on holiday when the world fell apart and didn’t know what was going on outside the four walls of your holiday property? Or what if someone told you something bad had happened but you had to way of finding out what? Would you believe them?
I do wonder what would have happened if the Washingtons hadn’t shown up, would they have ever known anything was wrong. Would they have blamed the things that happened on something else, and headed back home oblivious? I think so, they are quite a self-absorbed family. I didn’t any of the characters were particularly sympathetic.
I love the whole idea of this book, I just did not get on with Rumaan Alam’s writing style. Some of his word choices were just odd, and I never really get on with sex written in a literary manner, tumescent isn’t exactly a sexy word!
What he did do well was the building of tension. I was inclined to believe the Washingtons from the start, but would the white family react badly to them? Would paranoia overtake logic? It could all just be a powercut, an over-reaction to something. The text does hint at what is happening back in the city here and there, so you start to have more of an idea than the characters.
There is one scene that I thought was well done, where one of them leaves to go find information. So used to having a phone on them at all times, they don’t think to take a map or directions back to the unfamiliar location. The book shines a light on our dependence on modern technology, our need to know what’s going on at all times and our inability to function without it.
I don’t read a huge amount of literary fiction, so if that’s your jam then you might love this. I just felt like the writing got in the way of the story, rather than supporting it. On a more positive note, the Waterstones edition has my favourite sprayed edge design of the year, I’m just sorry I didn’t like the contents as much as the outside
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