Tom Vowler - That Dark Remembered Day (4 stars)

A thoughtful and engrossing examination of war, masculinity, marriage and PTSD

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Tom Vowler - That Dark Remembered Day

Tom Vowler's third book is a thoughtful and engrossing examination of war, masculinity, marriage, and the scars that violent acts leave on a family and a community. The narrative switches between two timelines: in 2012, after a sudden violent outburst at work, Stephen returns to his hometown to visit his ageing mother. Tensions grow as both characters circle around a mysterious tragedy from Stephen's childhood. In 1982, Stephen's soldier father returns from the Falklands War a changed man: distant, cold and troubled. Never officially diagnosed or treated, his PTSD leads to a terrible act that damages the whole community.

Much of the fiction peddled as 'psychological suspense' weighs heavy on the suspense, with the psychology aspect feeling flimsy at best. Not so here: throughout the novel, Vowler takes care to explore the mental processes in both the war-damaged father, the intensely ambivalent mother, and the haunted son. Though understated, the end is ultimately redemptive, as Stephen learns to emerge from his family's tragic shadow and deal with his emotions and family without repeating his father's mistakes.

Published by Headline on Thu 13 Mar.

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