Following his award-winning short story collection The Method, Tom Vowler is skilfully carving his territory in psychological suspense with That Dark Remembered Day, his second novel in this genre. Like his first, What Lies Within, we observe what happens when the equilibrium in human lives is thrown off balance. We also see how fragments from the impact can remain, fester and rise to create tumult at a later point in life.
Stephen receives a call from a friend of his mother letting him know that she is not well. He has always been reluctant to return to see her as she chose to stay in the town in which he grew up, the town in which a tragedy occurred leaving no one unscathed.
But on this occasion Stephen has ample opportunity to make the visit as he has some spare time on his hands. Following an out-of-character action at work, Stephen has been suspended as the university’s disciplinary procedures are pursued. Perhaps now is a good time to return to his childhood home town, to understand what has made him who and what he is, and to better understand his mother in her hour of need.
Carefully constructed, That Dark Remembered Day employs two timeframes to explore the past and its impact on the present. In the past, Vowler moves from teenager Stephen’s point of view to his mother’s and finally to his father’s, offering us the same events through prisms of different reality. The result is a page-turning read that hits a very emotional centre, knowing that the disaster is coming and being able to do nothing about it as a reader.
Now a father, can Stephen finally come to terms with this tragedy from his teen years? Can he find some sense of reconciliation with his mother’s choices and establish mutual understanding with her?
The hurt felt in this novel is very real. Vowler creates convincing characters and delivers his story in beautiful prose. The result is intoxicatingly addictive.
Vowler really does get under the skin of his characters, so it comes as no surprise to discover that he has an undergraduate degree in psychology. But he can also write. Oh boy can he write. With That Dark Remembered Day Vowler continues to build an oeuvre that will surely remain on shelves for a long time to come. And you have to wonder if he will join the ranks of William Boyd and Ian McEwan.
Published by Headline.