Book Review: The End of the Day by Claire North
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Redhook (April 4, 2017)
Length: 432 pages
I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later. Let me just start by saying I adored the last two novels I read by Claire North, which is how I know firsthand her reputation for writing unique and fascinating stories. I never know what to expect when I pick up a book by her—only that it will be innovative with a good chance of being a bit weird. Well, it seems my luck with those experimental qualities finally ran out. The End of the Day didn’t work nearly as well for me as The Sudden Appearance of Hope or Touch did, and I believe there were several reasons for that.
But first, I’m going to attempt to brief summary of the novel, which is harder than it sounds. The End of the Day did not have a story per se, and if it had a plot, it was disjointed and muddled. There was a another review I stumbled across recently that likened the book to sitting on a park bench people-watching or something to that effect, which is actually a pretty accurate description. Literally, there are pages just filled with nothing but snippets of quotes from conversations featuring random people talking about current issues. In between, what we get is more of a character study rather than a true story.
Our main character is Charlie, and he has a very interesting job from a very interesting employer. His official title is the Harbinger of Death. He’s the guy everyone meets once, before his boss comes a-knocking. Charlie’s visits are sometimes a warning but more often a courtesy, and he usually comes bearing gifts to the people he’s scheduled to visit. From a small village in South America to Greenland to New York City, he also never knows where he’ll be or who he’ll see next. Wherever Death arranges to send him, he just goes, whether or not his employer ultimately decides to “follow up”. Not surprisingly, Charlie has seen and learned a great many things from his experiences traveling around the world and meeting people from all walks of life. Eventually, he starts to question his own existence and the role he performs, gaining a new perspective on death and the meaning of life.
The premise of the book is interesting, I’ll give it that. The execution, however, left much to be desired. I think one of the reasons I loved Touch and The Sudden Appearance of Hope was because, in a way, those could be considered thrillers, with both books featuring the same inventiveness and ingenuity that is pure Claire North, yet they were still fast-paced and exciting reads. In contrast, The End of the Day is more of a slow-burner, and did not contain any overarching conflicts or high stakes.
Instead, what we get a lot of is food for thought. One thing I can say about North’s books is that they’re always discussion-worthy, and indeed, there’s a wealth of clever themes and ideas in this one, not to mention plenty of social issues to explore. And yet, none of this really makes a good story, especially since we spend so much time with Charlie and in the end I still feel like I know so little about him. While I sympathized with many of his points, his character often came across as somewhat shallow and uninformed about a lot of the topics that come up in the novel, given the number of generalizations and strawmen arguments littered across the narrative.
Still, in spite of my disappointment, this is not the end for me and Claire North. The End of the Day might have fizzled for me, but I’ll keep reading her books because when all is said and done, North is an incredible writer and I can always count on her imagination to come up with plenty more fresh and creative ideas for stories. One of my favorite books is Touch, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants a taste of what the author is capable of. On the other hand, The End of the Day might not work so well for pleasure reading; it is heavier on commentary and lighter on story and character development, and coming from a couple of the author’s more plot-driven stories, I simply cannot say I liked the style and tone of this one as much.