I have recently been quite spoiled by 5/5 ★ books and “The Discomfort of Evening” was a very welcome addition into that category! It was a well deserved winner of the International Booker Prize in 2020, in my point of view, and I was really glad to have come across it thanks to that award.
The book captured me from the first sentences and pages on. A story about a family that is told in such a unique, direct and creative voice that I was instantly charmed into the author’s writing. It’s a story of the interactions of the various family members, their emotions and the way they deal with the loss of a sibling. It is often very disturbing, told with the voice of an innocent and unapologetic child.
“Mum and Dad never cuddle; that must be because otherwise some of your secrets end up sticking to the other person, like Vaseline. That’s why I never spontaneously give hugs myself – I’m not sure which secrets I want to give away.” (p. 177)
“Sometimes when Dad comes to wish me goodnight, he sticks his tongue in my ear. It’s not as bad as the finger with green soap, but still. I don’t know why he does it.” (p. 120)
Some of my favourite parts were how visual the language and the descriptions of certain scenes were. You literally felt right there in the moment where a situation was taking place, whether you wanted that or not.
” ‘Do you still remember Harry?’ I ask Hanna. The corners of my sister’s mouth curl upwards until her cheeks bulge like two mozzarella balls on a white plate.” (p. 275)
“I’d give a lot to be able to rise up now, to be made of porcelain and for someone to drop me by accident so that I’d break into countless pieces and someone would see that I was broken, that I can no longer be of any use, like those damned angels wrapped in silver paper.” (p. 272)
“I get up and hide the wet sock under my bed with the wet knickers. I put the toads in my pocket and go to Hanna’s room. The door is open a chink. She’s lying with her back to it. I go inside and lay my hand under her nightdress on her bare back. Her skin has goose bumps – it feels like a Lego sheet. I could click myself onto it and never let go again.” (p. 265)
“The Discomfort of Evening” is reflective, deep, psychological and philosophical, pulling you into its special trance as a reader. It is emotional, it turns your world upside down during the reading experience and it’s simply brilliantly written. The structure is fluid, you’re able to follow it easily, the events are equally stretched out throughout the entire length and the ending – was simply perfection to me.
” ‘Shall we go for a bike ride?’ I whisper to Hanna, who is sitting behind the sofa, drawing. None of her figures has a body, only a head, reflecting the way we’re only focused on other people’s moods.” (p. 246)
“Mum pulls her dressing gown belt tight, hurries out of the living room, pulling the vacuum cleaner along with her by its hose – it follows her around the house all day like an obedient dog. Sometimes I’m jealous of that ugly blue beast – she seems to have more of a relationship with it than with her own children.” (p. 244)
This book has got to be one of my top 2020 suggestions and if you read just one last novel before the end of the year, I suggest you to give this one a try! 🙂
Edition: ISBN 978-0-571-34936-4
Faber & Faber, 2020