There are novels under the apocalyptic genre that I have enjoyed before so when I read a description of The Sunlight Pilgrims I was on it in a flash. The world is getting colder and civilization is about to freeze and die. These aren’t happy topics, apocalyptic literature never is, but I enjoy them nonetheless.
This book dragged a bit and the start was not a jump-out- of-the-gate start by any means. There are three main characters – Dylan, sad 38 year old from London who is experiencing grief over his mother’s death. She left him a note saying there was a caravan in Scotland she paid cash for and signed it Mum. That was her last missive to him. He heads north to Scotland toward the caravan.
Stella and Constance are the other major figures in this book. Constance is Stella’s mother and she has romantic relationships with two different men. She also worries about her daughter but those of us with kids can relate to that. Who doesn’t worry about their kids. Her daughter Stella is a trans-gender girl who has issues with her body. There are many internal struggles and this is laid out well. Dylan becomes a part of their lives and so this nontraditional threesome form a family of sorts.
Are you with me so far? I was fast losing interest in this slow moving story but I persevered for a while longer. Where was the science stuff, the great descriptions about the plummeting temperatures and how anyone would survive? There were some mentions of news they received about the freezing of the world but that wasn’t very often nor very detailed. While the prose could be lyrical at times I wasn’t a fan of the stream of consciousness ramblings. If I wanted that I would read Virginia Wolf.
The writing is poetic in places:
When grown-ups hear a little dark door creaking in their hearts they turn the telly up. They slug a glass of wine. They tell the cat it was just a door creaking. The cat knows. It jumps down from the sofa and walks out of the room. When that little dark door in a heart starts to go click-clack click-clack click-clack click-clack so loudly and violently their chest shows and actual beat-well, then they say they’ve got bad cholesterol and they try to quit using butter, they begin to go for walks.
When the tiny dark door in her heart creaks open, she will walk right through it.
Overall, this book couldn’t hold my interest. If the environmental catastrophe was addressed more and the dialogue was more intriguing, if it wasn’t a makeshift tragedy with characters you just couldn’t care about….maybe then I could have finished the book.
Jenni Fagan was born in Scotland and lives in London. She graduated from Greenwich University with the highest possible mark for a student of Creative Writing and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Arts Council England, Dewar Arts, and Scottish Screen among others. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice and shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize. Jenni works as a writer in residence in hospitals and prisons.