I am incredibly excited to be able to talk about The Last Day by Claire Dyer published by The Dome Press - AT LAST! I loved it, truly loved it and I think it is safe to say that it really is one of those books that stays with you, infact when I finished reading it I missed Boyd, Honey and Vita. I suppose I still do, the last page was The Last Day and I wasn't prepared for it.
Claire Dyer writes so beautifully and I can't go into all the nuances as it will spoil it for you, but the intriguing nuggets of information that build up a picture of the past which ultimately shape the future are so tenderly written, it truly is a page turner.
They say three’s a crowd but when Boyd moves back in to the family home with his now amicably estranged, Vita, accompanied by his impossibly beautiful twenty- seven-year-old girlfriend, Honey, it seems the perfect solution. Boyd can get his finances back on track while he deals with his difficult, ailing mother; Honey can keep herself safe from her secret, troubled past; and Vita can carry on painting portraits of the pets she dislikes and telling herself she no longer minds her marriage is over.
But the house in Albert Terrace is small and full of memories, and living together is unsettling. For Vita, Boyd and Honey love proves to be a surprising, dangerous thing and, one year on, their lives are changed forever.
This was one book that I read in bite size pieces and savoured each delicious chapter, as opposed to chomping it down in one. The way in which Claire described the characters, the buildings, the surroundings and the situations arising was a quite incredible. I felt like I was there, somewhere, and what was unfolding was impossible to determine quite how it would end. As it says on the cover "every ending starts with a beginning".
For me the book really reminded me that you never know when The Last Day will be, or infact if it is truly The Last Day. When you read the book you will get what I'm saying, oh and when you're reading the book your heart will do soaring and diving, you'll be tutting and agreeing, and you'll need a hanky or sleeve to sob into when you gasp.
I got the chance to put some questions to Claire:
How did the title come to you? It's such a great title as it gives so little away.
Rather prophetically the title came to me the day after the EU Referendum in June 2016! I was standing in my hallway next to my grandmother’s clock and the title popped into my head as I remembered winding the clock on the day she died and how I’d thought then that there would have been a last time I wound it while she was still alive. The gap between her being there and not being there suddenly seemed huge, but it was only actually one day. This probably won’t make much sense unless you’ve read the book, but I hope it helps in some way!
There was one unlikeable character from the start. Does she resemble anyone you know? Did you find yourself disliking her the more you wrote about her?
No, she doesn’t resemble anyone I know but I kind of modelled her on Jane Asher, not in character obviously, just in looks! And no, I didn’t grow to dislike her the more I wrote about her – I felt sorry for her in a strange sort of way.
Honey, oh dear poor haunted Honey. Boyd was so in love with her yet so linked to Vita. Do you think that bonds although broken are always there?
Yes I do think that bonds can remain, even if they’re mostly invisible to sight. Also bizarrely, I’ve just heard from my first ever boyfriend after a gap of 40 years (we ‘went out’ when we were in our mid-teens) and what this has shown me is you can live an almost lifetime but some memories stay firmly fixed and that it doesn’t take much for them to bloom into technicolour again.
I really enjoyed the little nuggets that you left the reader with. Your ability to draw readers in is such a skill. Do you think 'hurrah that'll hook them' when you've written a particular part?
I suppose it would be disingenuous of me to say that I don’t say ‘hurrah’ occasionally, but what’s more satisfying is seeing how the threads get sown and emerge as I’m writing. I’m more of an explorer plotter than a cartographer plotter and so witnessing how the themes and motifs arrive and then blend with one another is a very exciting part of the writing process.
It's so difficult to ask questions without giving too much away! Did you have Albert Terrace in your mind when you wrote The Last Day?
Albert Terrace was a very real place in my mind – the house, the road, the garden, Vita’s studio, the park next door, the horse chestnut trees – all these were as if I’d spent time living there myself. The house itself is sort of based on one I lived in in Birmingham when I was in my twenties and which I remember very fondly. I needed the house to be small so that the three of them would bump into one another a lot. It also had to contain a lot of history so I hope I’ve pulled that off too.
I mostly read this whilst cwtched on the sofa with my dog, knowing I am loved as he watched the tiny crumbs but the sentence "rarely do you stand still and say 'I loved and I am loved'?" really struck a chord. I can imagine your readers will put the book down and feel the need to tell someone they're loved. I did.
I hope they do. Alan Hester’s poem in the back of the book really resonated with me when I read it. Again, it’s about that blade-edge moment when everything can change and how important it is to savour the now. I think it’s easy to forget to do that sometimes.
Thank you Claire!
Thanks also to The Dome Press for including me on this Blog Tour, I have enjoyed reading the reviews and look forward to reading the rest of them.
I was also privileged to be invited to the Book Launch where Claire signed a copy for me to share with those local to Wokingham and Binfield. Last summer I left a book on a bench and started #BooksOnBenches. It's nothing new for there are lots of pay it forward book gangs, however it's a bit of fun and I am passionate about reading and spreading the word. If you find the book then write your name in it and return it to a Crema Cafe or a bench nearby for someone else to enjoy..
Claire Dyer’s novels, The Moment and The Perfect Affair and her short story, Falling For Gatsby are published by Quercus.
Her poetry collections, Interference Effects and Eleven Rooms, are published by Two Rivers Press.
She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and teaches creative writing for Bracknell & Wokingham College. She also runs Fresh Eyes, an editorial and critiquing service.
In 2016, Claire penned and performed a poem for National Poetry Day, called The Oracle, for BBC Radio Berkshire.