This was the second book that I read by Claire North (or whatever she decides to use as her pen name). However, when thinking back, I do so with quite mixed feelings. It is certainly a good book which deals with very philosophical topics and would therefore be perfectly suited for discussions. Yet, the book feels kinda random at times, like it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Generally, the story follows Charlie, the Harbinger of Death, wherever he goes to meet people, sometimes as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. Thus, there is no apparent plotline and he whole book is compiled of little stories that Charlie has experienced.
There are still many passages that I do not fully understand, and I will get into that in more detail in my review down below. But let me just say that I do not understand everything in this book. I feel like there are certain phrases, paragraphs, characters and even chapters, where I don’t understand the meaning behind them – the reason Claire North put them there.
It is also not quite what I am used to reading. There are certainly some fantastic elements (I mean, it follows the Harbinger of Death, duh..), but it is more like a philosophical people study, which does definitely not diminish the power of the book! Therefore, if you’re a hardcore Sci-Fi fan, then this book is not for you. If you are someone who likes to read books that are more than just a storyline and go deeper, by touching on philosophical topics and social issues, then by all mean, go ahead! You’ll enjoy “The End of the Day” by Claire North!
I rate this book a good 7/10. With an interesting premise, some powerful chapters and a very likeable protagonist, The End of the Day certainly makes for a great book to read.
Claire North is an alias used by the british author Catherine Webb. She also wrote under the alias of Kate Griffin. She was born on the 27.04.1986.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August won Catherine the "Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year" Award.
Date of release: 04.04.2017
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When I read the blurb for “The End of the Day”, I didn’t really know what to expect. Since I wanted to read something by Claire North (because I quite liked “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August”), and the blurb intrigued me, I decided to order it.
In the beginning, we are thrown into the world of Charlie already working as the Harbinger of Death, when he comforts Old Mother Sakinai, who is the last person who speaks her native language. And this is it. Basically, the book will now follow Charlie on his path to wherever Death needs him to go. We meet a lot of different people, but everyone just once – as Charlie does, too. This makes it really hard for me as the reader to build a relationship with the other characters. Charlie seems to be quite likeable from the get-go, and by following him around, we get to learn a lot about him and how he feels about his work and his life.
Now, there are some recurring characters, one of them is Patrick Fuller - some type of banker, I guess. Let’s just say a wealthy man, who is invited by Death (or the Milton Keynes office) to witness “the end of a world” – notice it says, “a world” not “the world”. Yet, I am not able to figure out his role in the whole story. He is just there, and I don’t know what to make or think of him. We also meet the other Harbingers, namely the Harbinger of Famine, the Harbinger of Pestilence and the Harbinger of War. Same goes for them, they sometimes appear in the story, but I don’t feel like they serve a major point (maybe I’m just completely oblivious to that kind of stuff).
Where it gets really interesting is when Death appears himself. And this also makes for my favourite scene of the whole book. Let me describe it:
It was, when Charlie was sent to meet Mr. Rodion in Belarus but is then captured by Rodion’s men, who are trying to strike a deal with Death saying stuff like: How many people do we have to kill, to prolong our master’s life?
They start to beat and torture Charlie and what follows makes for the most enjoyable, yet absolutely absurd scene in the whole book. And I loved it!
Charlie actually calls Death on his cell, and Death answers:
C: “Hello, sir, it’s Charlie”
D: Ah yes Charlie. Of course. How are you?”
C: “He doesn’t want to die, sir. And … they’ve got me in this room and there’s… this man, he’s”
D: “Are they threatening you?”
C: “Yes, sir”
D: “Have they hurt you?”
C: “Yes, sir”
D: “Are they going to kill you?”
C: “Yes, sir”
D: “I see, that displeases me”
I mean, the thought alone that Charlie is talking to Death is insane, but Death talks in such an elegant manner, which makes the whole scene even more absurd. Death then tells Charlie to count down from 100 and close his eyes. When Charlie opens his eyes every single person in the house is dead. Murdered (?) by Death, except of course Mr. Rodion, who would go on to live for five more years.
During this whole chapter, I sat there and just couldn’t stop myself from smiling like a fool, because I like that sweet, sweet revenge, the justice served on these henchmen.
But after such brilliant chapters are chapters that I just don’t know what they are supposed to achieve. Mixed in between the story are very short chapters (often only one page maximum) where there are random sentences. They have no correlation to the story. Or at least none that I could spot.
One of the most memorable scenes in the book is when Charlie meets with Qasim Jahani. When they drive out to visit a completely destroyed village, they find men, women and children, massacred and lying in a trench. Qasim Jahani goes on to explain how he does not fight against humans. He fights against garbage and he has no remorse in killing garbage. Up to this point, I logically assumed that Qasim was a “good guys” and was talking about the people who massacred these innocent people. However, Qasim then says that when his men killed that place, they only took out the trash.
This took me completely by surprised and left me feeling very unsettled and almost in shock. This chapter is a very powerful demonstration of what war does to people and that there is no such thing as good and bad guys.
As you can see, there are glimmers of brilliance in this book, with very impressive chapters as the one mentioned.
Yet, it did not convince me completely. My relationship with Claire North’s books is very strange. When I read the blurb, I always want to read the book at once. But when I actually start, it is something very different than what I imagined. Still, in the end, I always liked the book and I will definitely read more of her books.
In conclusion, I can state that the book is not what I expected and does not fall within the genres of books that I read usually. It is built on an interesting premise (as I believe most of her books are) and it overall makes for a compelling story that I very much enjoyed.