Day by A L Kennedy - review by Martyn Bedford

Martyn Bedford

In Extremis



Jonathan Cape 280pp £16.99

What is it about war that appeals to writers and readers of fiction? Genuine storytelling drama, of course, has to depend on more than bombs, bullets and bloody adventure. Like most genres of novel-writing, war fiction advances or retreats on the strength of its characters as much as on the context.

A L Kennedy exemplifies this in her new novel. From its single-word title (the hero’s surname) through the unfolding of what is essentially an extended and elaborate internal monologue, Day is a war story set inside its protagonist’s head. That isn’t to say there is no ‘action’ (there is, and lots of it), but since we witness it through Alfred Day’s eyes, it is his war, and his drama, that we experience. 

There are two main timeframes: in 1949, Alfred is in Germany as an extra on a PoW film set; during the war itself, he is a tail-gunner in a Lancaster bomber. As the story cuts back and forth between these periods, each heavily populated by secondary characters, and with additional

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