When Alfred "Alfie" Day, a tail gunner in the Royal Air Force, is shot down over Germany after countless bombing missions that culminate in the bombing of Hamburg, he becomes a POW in a Nazi camp. In 1949, he once again finds himself in Germany—this time as an extra in a British film set in an internment camp. As he relives the war through the actors, memories of the real war’s horrors come rushing back. Alfie becomes more and more unhinged as he tries to escape his consciousness and understand the war, his family, friendships, romances—and, indeed, his entire being. But as he starts to come to grips with himself, the lines between reality and fantasy, past and present, converge.
Knopf. 288 pages. $24. ISBN: 0307266834
Rocky Mountain News
"The reader is led nimbly between the narratives by typographical cues and by the sharp character portrayals in each story line. … Kennedy’s war scenes show a depth of research into technical matters as well as the psychological responses of people caught in the maelstrom of war." Rex Burns
San Diego Union-Tribune
"[Few] historical novels wear their research so lightly and integrate it so well, with a flawless instinct for the telling detail. … It is an imaginative tour de force that succeeds on every level, from its sparkling language to its narrative ingenuity to its devastating portrayal of wartime Europe and the people who must endure it." Scott Leibs
"At first, reading Day feels like watching a scene through smeared glasses. Over time, as Alfie learns to align the fantasy of the movie with his troubled childhood and the war, vision comes clearer." Carlo Wolff
NY Times Book Review
"As Kennedy charts Alfie’s erratic progress, monitoring the flickerings of his will to live, the book’s bright spots and most rewarding bits, closest to its heart, are the places where she displays her admirable ability to imagine a character from within. … [The book’s structure] begins to seem like an artificial construct, or at least artificially convenient, when Alfie’s thoughts circle the drain for so long before taking the final plunge." Francine Prose
"[Day] is a problematic volume, signaling both increased stylistic ambition and a disheartening downshift. … But the novel is not without heart." Edward Champion
Named twice as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, A. L. Kennedy plumbs the depths of darkness. In her ninth book of fiction, Paradise ( July/Aug 2005), she explored alcoholism. Day, a psychologically complex novel that examines the true costs of war, combines war, romance, and history. By delving deep inside Alfred’s psyche, Kennedy offers an immediate, surreal portrait of one man’s disintegration. Critics agree that Kennedy’s vivid depictions of war are the most compelling, original parts of the novel. But because much of it follows a loose stream of consciousness, some objectivity and clarity are lost, leaving the reader (not always successfully) to piece together thoughts and interactions. The novel has power, but it takes a long time for it to come together.
Cited by the Critics
The Girls of Slender Means | Muriel Spark (1963): Like Day, this novel focuses on the immediate aftermath of World War II. In bombed-out London, young women reside at the May of Teck Club, making do as they wait for their normal lives to resume.