Good Afternoon All,
Hope everyone is having a good weekend. I had a bad night last night following the latest lockdown announcement in the UK. I live in Wales and the whole of Wales has now gone into total lockdown meaning that I won’t be able to go and see my family in England on Boxing Day as planned. I am definitely lucky in comparison to a lot of people in that I won’t be alone on Christmas Day but I am so upset that I won’t be able to see any of my family this year. I completely understand the reason for this decision and I support it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck!
I was emailed some marketing material about this book and once I read the blurb I knew it was something I’d enjoy. Thank you to @bonnierbooks_uk and @wekesperos for this advanced copy of The Long, Long Afternoon in return for an honest review. The Long, Long Afternoon is due to be published on 4th February 2021 and you can get a copy here.
California during the summer of 1959 is stiflingly hot and in the small suburb of Sunnylakes, the community is about to feel the heat even more.
Joyce Haney appears to be a happy housewife with two beautiful daughters and a pristine home. During one long, long afternoon, Joyce vanishes from her perfect home with only her children and a blood stained kitchen left behind. Detective Mick Blanke needs to piece together this mystery and figure out how this long, long afternoon came to an end.
General Thoughts 🤔
Firstly, there was so much more to this book than what the description gives away. Yes, it was a mystery thriller and there was a case that needed to be solved but it wasn’t just that. It covers the struggles of black people, the struggles of women and how those struggles were normalised during that time.
I loved reading about the facade of the “American Dream”. The perfect houses with the picket fences that are spotless (thanks to the help) hide dark secrets that everyone knows about, yet nobody talks about. Nearly all of the women in the neighbourhood were medicated just to get them through the day. It made me so sad to read of a time when a woman’s worth was based on her home making skills and how many children she could provide for her husband. It made me grateful to be reminded that I am able to live my life as I wish, without being suppressed and controlled by a man.
I can’t write this review without talking about race. What I found to be frightening was how little difference there was between treatment of black people by law enforcement in this book set in 1959 and present day. Let’s face it, if asked to believe a poor black woman over a middle class white woman, how do you think that would turn out in 2020? My guess is not too differently from what would have happened in 1959, just not as brazen.
As a mixed race woman, I gravitated towards Ruby almost immediately. She had ambitions and dreams that probably weren’t too far away from what I wanted from my life when I was younger. Except she would have to work far harder than I to make those hopes attainable. I admired Ruby’s strength and empathised with her predicament of choosing to help an establishment that had little regard for her wellbeing. Despite how society treated Ruby as the help, she remained true to herself and her own integrity.
I really liked Detective Blanke’s character. He wasn’t portrayed as the perfect “has it together” detective and I loved that his flaws; professional and personal were written into the story. The relationship between Blanke and Ruby was so interesting. Blanke was by no means perfect, but didn’t discriminate against Ruby based on the colour of her skin or her standing in life.
Writing Style ✍️
I am in awe of how much subject matter was in this book. As I said, it was more than just a mystery, but the mystery was also written very well. There are curveballs and twists that I didn’t see coming and kept me hooked from the very beginning. Amongst all of that (which is usually enough on it’s own to make me content with a book) the author had me gripped by the racism, sexism and social issues of the time.
The story is told through the perspective of Ruby, Detective Blanke and Joyce Haney. I thought that this worked really well and the choice of characters was perfect. I particularly enjoyed readying Joyce’s perspective as I felt that it helped to keep the story moving.
Conclusion & Scoring 🏅
I got much more than I expected from this book and loved it. I flew through it because once I started, it was impossible for me to put it down. I’ve seen lots of comparisons to The Help from other bloggers and I would agree that if you enjoyed that book, you’ll definitely enjoy The Long, Long Afternoon. I found this to be a fantastic debut novel from Inga Vesper and I look forward to seeing more of her work.