Edward Behrens

Restoration Drama

The Day Before the Fire


Chatto & Windus 295pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Miranda France’s second novel, The Day Before the Fire, is narrated by Ros, a paper conservator with a fine eye for the telling detail. The book opens boldly during that grimmest of periods: pre-Christmas shopping. Ros receives a phone call from her business partner, Frieda, to tell her that Turney House has burned down. Turney is, as far as this novel is concerned, one of the architectural glories of London, an 18th-century pleasure palace built with no expense spared by a family whose success was founded on the slave trade. Some details, it appears, have more weight than others.

For Ros, Turney holds many fascinations. The restoration is led by Lady Alexandra Marchant, chatelaine of the house, the much younger wife of Lord Marchant, polished and determined and, frankly, a bitch. She insists, amid arguments with the insurers, that Turney should be returned to exactly how it was the day before the fire. Ros and Frieda get the job of restoring the Rose Room, famous for its Victorian wallpaper. While this act of physical restoration is carried out, Ros is trying – or not – to restore her marriage.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Pollan has no doubt that the use of psychedelics could have a powerfully beneficial effect on a range of condition… ,
    • A memoir about an Untouchable family and the 'formation of modern India': 'Ants among Elephants' by @gidla_sujatha… ,
    • RT : First founded in Edinburgh in 1979, is considered a trusted independent source for reviews of new book… ,
    • 'In different ways Hatherley makes gritty Lódź and poor old which-country-are-we-in-this-week Lviv sound entrancing… ,
    • In this issue Lucy Popescu discusses the miscarriages of justice occurring in the investigation over Maltese journa… ,
    • 'Rodin’s fascination with ancient Greek sculpture is part of a long and distinguished French tradition.' A review o… ,
    • The New Testament, in a new translation by David Bentley Hart, reviewed by Salley Vickers ,