Richard and Judy Review: Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

Richard and Judy Review: Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

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"Claire Fuller says she loves fairy tales, and there is something of Hansel and Gretel in this story."

Richard’s review

Claire Fuller says she loves fairy tales, and there is something of Hansel and Gretel in this story. Her descriptions of the natural environment James and Peggy inhabit are quite magical. Together they forage for mushrooms and roots, kill squirrels to eat, and tend a small vegetable garden.

It’s the good life at first. But survival inevitably becomes increasingly difficult, and they find themselves having to fight against nature. Strongly present is a sense of gathering darkness. Peggy is increasingly frightened of the empty, brooding woods. Meanwhile her father’s mental instability, always obvious to us, becomes increasingly menacing and disturbing.

The story is told through Peggy’s voice and it is easy to imagine how the innocence of a little girl and her unquestioning belief in her father conspire to keep her younger than she really is. But over the nine years they live in total isolation, she obviously matures sexually. This is subtly alluded to; there are no heavy-handed hints, as there no direct references to James’s obviously growing madness.

Fuller’s writing is always delicate, but the reader can see all the signs.

Even so, the end of her story is truly shocking, and totally unexpected. Peggy eventually finds her way back to her mother in London, but what actually happened when she left Die Hutte remains a compete mystery until the final few pages.

This is a dark and gripping family drama.

"This is a rare and exceptional novel – an astonishingly accomplished debut."

Judy’s review

This is a rare and exceptional novel – an astonishingly accomplished debut. Much of the story is in flashback. It begins in 1985, but soon spools back to 1976. Peggy is eight years old and lives in north London with her mother (Ute), a world-famous concert pianist, and her father James.

James is a survivalist, as so many earnest and introverted men were in the ’70s (and still are in the USA). He believes in the imminent destruction of the planet in a nuclear holocaust. He and a group of like-minded friends build fallout shelters in their basements and share information about surviving in the wild. The relationship between Ute and James is strained, for reasons we do not discover until the end of the book.

It’s a beautifully-written story, and begins, as I say, in 1985. Therefore we know that Peggy – now 17 – is living with her mother in London. And yet we learn that her father abducted Peggy back in 1976, and took her across Europe to live in a cabin hidden deep in a massive German forest. He calls their shack ‘Die Hutte’ (The Hut) and once there tells Peggy that her mother is dead. Not only that, but the entire world has been destroyed.

‘On the other side there is only emptiness, an awful place that has eaten everything except our own little kingdom,’ James tells her.

Peggy, being only eight, has no reason to disbelieve him. And she adores her father. So for the next nine years Peggy and James live in the isolated hut, seeing no-one and surviving on what they can scavenge from the woods that surround them.

Press reviews

Here are a selection of the reviews for Our Endless Numbered Days

"Straightaway I was intrigued to find out where this novel was heading… Fuller evokes the natural world’s beauty and brutality."

The Independent

"Fuller handles the tension masterfully in this grown-up thriller of a fairytale, full of clues, questions and intrigue."

The Times

"Bewitching…a rivetingly dark tale…spellbinding."

Sunday Express

3 thoughts on “Richard and Judy Review: Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

  1. I have just finished the book and, like you, I thought it was brilliant. Like you, I am left wondering what happened, and I think the clue lies with the fact that, towards the end, Peggy’s father kept calling her Ute and obviously thought that she was his wife. I think that he found her in her “nest” and, angry with her for leaving, he raped her. She then returned to the cabin and killed him. With regard to Reuben, I don’t think he did exist. I think he was a figment of her imagination, just as she used to pretend that her doll could talk.

    I may be totally wrong and, presumably, the author knows the truth but maybe she wants her readers to make their own minds up – or maybe she is planning a sequel. Perhaps we should ask her.

    1. [Spoiler warning!] Hello Louisa and Maggie, thanks for your comments and I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. Maggie – you’re right, in that I’m happy for you to believe whatever you like about what happened to Peggy / Punzel, but as the author, I do have a version of events. To cope with what was happening to her in the forest, Peggy makes Reuben up. Since Reuben wasn’t real, it must be Peggy who kills her father, and since Peggy comes home pregnant, the only person who can be the father of her child, is her own father. I don’t think he rapes her in her ‘nest’, but in the cabin, and in fact they may only have had sex once (I’m happy for readers to make up their own minds about this). I don’t have a sequel planned, but my next book, Swimming Lessons, will be published in January 2017. You can find out more on my website: Thanks, Claire

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