Tom Vowler’s second novel, That Dark Remembered Day, opens with what could be a recurring nightmare: a boy on the cusp of young adulthood gets off the school bus in Spring 1983, full of hope and fuzzy expectations and, on his way home, walks into something that quickly shatters that child’s happy innocence forever.
The book then fast-forwards to Autumn 2012 and Stephen, a grown man with a family of his own and a job that stems from one of his passions. Unfortunately, unresolved anger issues and drinking are jeopardising everything: he’s been suspended from his job and his wife has told him that they can’t go on like this for much longer. Things appear to be quickly unravelling when he gets called back to his home town. He’s avoided going there in the past but now it seems as if he must return, not only to see his mother who’s unwell, but also finally to see if he can deal with what happened there in 1983.
One of the reasons this book works so well is because Tom Vowler manages to sustain the suspense for so long. The reader deliberately isn’t told what the tragic event was until quite late on in the book and so can only guess at what happened, or how, and tweak their ideas each time they’re drip-fed further information. The slow reveal is brilliantly done and left this reader with just enough new information each time before another layer of the story was peeled away to reveal the next one. Even when I thought I knew what had transpired, it turned out that I didn’t have all the details and still needed to adjust how I was looking at things, when more was revealed. I found my attitudes towards the characters and their place in the story continuously shifting, which made for both a compelling and unsettling read. Read more