There are a million stories of rugged men who take to the wilderness and there descend into madness. The originality of Claire Fuller's Our Endless Numbered Days is that her survivalist male obsessive chooses to take his eight-year-old daughter with him. And, to spare her any thoughts of escape, he tells her that the rest of the world has come to an end.
The story of James Hillcoat's descent into a very male variety of mania is told through the eyes of Peggy, the young girl he drags with him to a ramshackle hut in the Austrian mountains, never to return. This is Peggy's story; and it's her survival, not her father's, that the book is concerned with. The young Peggy's slow adaptation to this raw, unsupported life is immersive and credible, and the darkness of her plight is illuminated by lucid, beautiful writing about her woodland habitat. This timeline is interspersed by a framing narrative that features the older Peggy's return to her family home in London. As the timelines twine around one another we gradually become aware that the younger Peggy's perspective is not wholly reliable.
Our Endless Numbered Days is a dark, uplifting coming-of-age tale that manages to be both compassionate and bleak about individual obsession and family love. Highly recommended.