Claire Fuller’s debut novel moves between 1985 and 1976 with protagonist Peggy Hillcoat being kidnapped by her “retreater” father. He tells her the rest of the world has been destroyed and they are the only two people left and takes her to live in a one room cabin deep in the forests of Bavaria. Although she is portrayed as an intelligent 8 year old, and despite the questioning voice in her head, she believes him. Maybe she has no other choice.
The novel actually reads a lot like Emma Donaghue’s “Room” and is similarly disturbing and an equally dark family drama. I much preferred “Room” though. It gripped me sooner and connected me to the characters more. I don’t think I ever truly believed Peggy would have just gone with her father and never said anything to another adult or simply refused to go.
Fuller’s story is told in flashbacks by Peggy, starting after her return to London, and building tension by vividly detailing the harsh reality of living off the grid and the unravelling of the minds of both Peggy and her father during their 9 years of life in the remote cabin. The chapters that set the scene for this post-apocalyptic life in the remote wilderness are drawn out though which makes the pace of story too slow at times. Once “Reuben” enters the narrative, it does pick up and I found it a much faster read, in fact finishing it in one sitting at that point. I was bothered that the ending becomes clear long before you actually get to that point. Not so clear that I skipped to the last chapter to confirm, instead I kept reading and I still felt sick when the author put words to it. But I wish it had been more of punch in the gut, shock sickness instead of a confirmed dread sickness.
I need to read something much lighter now. I need to get the disturbing images of the book out of my head.