Day by A L Kennedy

Vintage, 2008

Day follows the fortunes of Alfred Day, a former tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber during World War 2. This might lead you to believe he will die in the novel’s denouement – rear gunners were notably short lived, being the first target a night fighter might hit in an attack run and unsuitably positioned to exit a doomed Lanc easily should the worst happen – but it is quickly revealed that after the war he returns to Germany to take a part in a film set in a POW camp. The book roams back and forth through Day’s wartime life, the filming and his relationships with the bomber’s crew, his parents, and the married woman he takes up with.

The prose shifts in various ways. The narrative is not linear, the point of view changes, as do tenses and even the person in which the novel is related. Passages related by “you” – ie in the second person rather than the more familiar first person, I, or third person, s/he, are notoriously difficult to bring off – but Kennedy slides into them and out again with facility.

The post war scenes are the least engaging. They seem to be present to allow Day to recollect his wartime experiences from some distance though they do reveal part of his character and the ugly compromises made by the war’s winners as their old allies turned into adversaries and vice versa.

The front cover tells us Day won the Costa Book of the Year 2007. While the fractured nature of the narrative may render it difficult to read for some, the gradual unravelling of the story does build to its conclusion; where there are no unsignalled authorial surprises waiting for us.

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