Summary and book reviews of Day by A.L. Kennedy

Day

A Novel

By A.L. Kennedy

Day
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2008,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2009,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

Alfie Day, RAF airman and former World War II POW, never expected to survive the war. He may not have even wanted to—choosing to be a tail gunner—exposed, alone and watchful for his skipper and his crew through night after night of bombing missions. Now, five years after the end of the war and more alone than ever, Alfie finds himself drawn to unearth those intense, strangely passionate days by working as an extra on a POW film. What he will discover on the set about himself, his loves and the world around him will make the war itself look simple.

Day is a superbly realized, emotionally charged, deeply affecting drama about the violence of modern life, and the intensity and courage to be found in the closeness of death. Blazing with Kennedy’s characteristic virtuosity, wit and narrative invention, Day is funny and moving, wise and sad, a dazzlingly original performance from one of the most gifted writers of our time.

Winner of the 2007 Costa Novel Award.

Alfred was growing a moustache.

An untrained observer might think he was idling, at a loose end in the countryside, but this wasn't the case. In fact, he was concentrating, thinking his way through every bristle, making sure they would align and be all right.

His progress so far was quite impressive: a respectable growth which already suggested reliability and calm. There were disadvantages to him, certain defects: the shortness, inelegant hands, possible thinning at his crown, habit of swallowing words before they could leave him, habit of looking mainly at the ground—and those few extra pounds at his waist, a lack of condition—but he wasn't so terribly ugly, not such a bad lot.

Mainly his problem was tiredness—or more an irritation with his tiredness—or more a tiredness that was caused by his irritation—or possibly both. He could no longer tell.

It wasn't that he was awkward, or peculiar, quite the reverse: he was biddable and ...

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  • award image

    Costa Book Awards
    2007

  • award image

    Costa Book Awards
    2007

Reviews

BookBrowse

This disorienting prose style is the true strength of Day; in fact, it's the key that makes the entire story work. Without the constant shift of perspective and non-linear story line, we would never stand in Alfie's shoes, and that's the whole point. We must follow Alfie, be Alfie to the end, because learning what Alfie learns is the ultimate lesson of life, a lesson that that may ultimately save us from war.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

Full Review Members Only (1129 words).

Media Reviews
The Guardian - Ursula K Le Guin

A woman born in 1965 who writes a novel about an RAF bomber crew in the second world war needs a gift for bringing history alive, as well as guts and true bravado. AL Kennedy has them all. Her picture of what war does to people burns with wisely unstated saeva indignatio. The young gunner who is the central figure of the book is drawn with profound sympathy. Her narrative gift is great. Yet the book never quite worked for me.

Times (London) - Helen Dunmore

Crew is everything, and the rest of life falls away. After the war, when the crew is finished and the retellings and recriminations begin, there is nowhere left for the man Alfred has become. His lost, angry, passionate conversation with himself is the best and most sustained thing in the book.

The Daily Telegraph - Jane Shilling

Day is a remarkable performance: an eerily convincing act of ventriloquism in which the internal monologue of a deeply troubled and inarticulate young man is transmuted into language that conveys the blunt, painful, sometimes beautiful and often comic flashing of his thoughts.

Scotland on Sunday - Stuart Kelly

Day confirms, if confirmation were needed, that Kennedy is a singular, superlative author. I hope that the judges of this year's Man Booker prize pay particular attention to it.

The Independent - Catherine Taylor

Once again, Kennedy brilliantly interweaves overwrought internal dialogue with external outrageous acts. The unfolding tenderness of nature and of amity blend superbly with the casualness of daily horror.

The Independent - Katy Guest

We will probably never know whether Kennedy was thinking of Iraqi civilians when she wrote this, and she may say that it is irrelevant. But in a rare moment of openness, she did once speak up for the importance of fiction. "It is the form that proves most deeply that other human beings are as human as we are," she says.

Kirkus Reviews

Living within Day's consciousness can be a claustrophobic reading experience.

Publishers Weekly

Alfred's interior thoughts (offset in italics) as well as ingenious forays into the second person (where he's presumably talking to himself). It takes getting used to, but adds texture and intimacy to this timely story about the detrimental effects of war on a good man.

Boston Globe - Margot Livesey

This is not to say that there are not moments of clarity in the novel, indeed many moments. What is less clear is how they fit together in a way that allows readers to both remember and look forward.

San Francisco Chronicle - Martin Rubin

Here is the authentic voice of postwar British disillusionment. What an imagination in one born so long afterward to render it so perfectly. What stops "Day" from being merely the depressing story of a crack-up is Alfred's abiding humaneness. Even as he mourns dead comrades and the devastation wrought on a loved one by the enemy, even as he suffers at the hands of the Nazis, still he finds it in himself to pity the nation and its people whom it is his job to help bomb. This novel does not flinch from war's complexities and realities, and as a result, is an insightful and moving testament, public as well as private.

Reader Reviews
Cody G.

Disappointing... Kennedy, learn from this mistake.
Too much vulgarity and vanity. Kennedy has disappointed many readers who don't appreciate a lot of vulgarity. Kennedy should stop writing books if this behavior continues in other titles written by her....

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Beyond the Book

World War II at the Movies:

Alfred Day's attempt to face the disillusionment of war on a film set is similar to what society at the time was doing at the movie theaters. The massive movie hits of the 40s and 50s, like To Hell and Back, allowed moviegoers on both sides of the Atlantic to relive moments of the war, if they had been directly involved, or to understand the nature of war, if they were not.

Since war broke out in 1939, World War II has been a favorite topic with movie studios in the USA and UK, and no doubt in ...

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