EXCERPT: May 2019 – On the day she is due to fly home to Australia, Miriam Squires is sitting at a table in the hotel restaurant, sipping her second cup of coffee and staring at the English Channel, which is so still it looks more like a lake than the sea. It’s the end of her annual visit to the UK, always a month or six weeks with her sister Alice in Oxford, followed by a few days of nostalgia here in Brighton, where they had grown up. The town, with its stony beach and two piers, one thriving, the other now a wreck, always lures her back. But now – at seventy-five, with painful mobility problems – the prospect of long queues, struggles with baggage and long hours in the air is daunting. Today, she thinks, is probably the last time she will see the place where she was born. It’s not just the misery of the journey itself, but her increasing disenchantment with England. Beautiful villages have become ugly towns bordered by industrial estates; unique country pubs have been swallowed up by hospitality chains, and those shops who can’t withstand the shift to online shopping are disappearing, leaving high streets sadly diminished.
‘Even Marks and Spencer’s is fading away,’ Alice had told her. ‘Imagine no M and S knickers or bras! And then there’s Brexit. England’s a basket case – it’ll be a disaster if we leave the EU. You’re so lucky with that Jacinda Adern.’
‘She’s the Prime Minister of New Zealand,’ Mim had said, ‘but I do think you’d love Australia. You should come and stay with me, Al.’ She has issued the invitation many times over the years.
‘I’ll think about it,’ Alice had said. ‘I really will.’ That’s what she always said.
ABOUT ‘AT THE END OF THE DAY’: When Mim Squires and Mathias Vander are stranded together on a disrupted flight home to Perth, they are surprised to find that they have much in common. Mim owns a bookshop, Mathias is a writer, and both are at turning points in their lives. Mim’s childhood polio is taking a toll on her life. Mathias is contemplating a cross-continent move to be nearer his daughter.
But life back in Perth is not smooth sailing, with their respective family members going through their own upheavals. As Mim and Mathias both struggle to adjust to the challenges of being in their late seventies, secrets from the past that neither wishes to face rise to the surface, challenging their long-held beliefs in their independence and singularity.
At the end of the day, can they muster the wisdom and the courage they need to change?
MY THOUGHTS: Immersing myself in a Liz Byrski book is my happy place. At the End of the Day is a beautifully written story of family, love, friendship and making peace with the past.
Liz’s characters are loveable – people I could be friends with, realistic people with quirks and faults, having to make decisions that many of us will face in our lives. She writes with a gentle humour and an obvious affection for her characters.
2019 is a time of turmoil for both families. Mim is acknowledging her health problems which are again beginning to impact on her life. She wonders if she will ever see her sister Alice again, and how she is going to cope with running her bookstore, Life Sentence, in the future. An accident causes friction between her and Jodie, whom she treats like the daughter she never had, and she feels like she is losing control of her life.
Mathias is at a crossroads in his life. Lifelong friend Luc, is dying, he seems to have lost his motivation to write, and an incident from his past that has haunted him all his life is causing debilitating panic attacks. On top of all that, his daughter Carla has broken up with her partner, who Mathias never much liked anyway, and is wondering if she will ever find anyone to share her life with.
We follow these two families as friendships are forged, fears are faced, and secrets revealed. Not all questions are answered, but that’s okay, because that’s just the way life works. Covid-19 gets a fleeting mention as this story concludes in early 2020.
At the End of the Day tugged at my heartstrings. It shows that how we remember the past isn’t always how it happened. It demonstrates that there is always hope for the future, and that independence isn’t always the prize it is made out to be.
This read was made even more poignant when, reading the author’s acknowledgments, I discovered that Liz Byrski had suffered a stroke during the writing of At The End of The Day, and finished it post-stroke, a feat to be admired. I wish you a full recovery Liz, and many happy and healthy years to come.
I: @lizbyrski @macmillanaus
T: @LizByrski @MacmillanAus
#aging #contemporaryfiction #sliceoflife
THE AUTHOR: Liz was born in London and spent most of her childhood in Sussex. As an only child she spent a lot of time alone, much of it buried in books. She began her working life as a secretary and later moved into journalism working as a reporter on a local newspaper until she took up freelance writing when her children were born. Before moving to Western Australia she also worked as an appeals organiser for Oxfam.
After moving to Perth with her family in 1981 she once again established a freelance career writing for Australian publications including The Australian, Homes and Living, Cosmopolitan and Weekend News.
Liz lives between Perth and Fremantle and in addition to enjoying the company of family and friends, she spends most of her time reading, writing and walking. She has two adult sons and twin grandsons.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of At the End of the Day by Liz Byrski for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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