reviewed by Fiona Cook
They say that there’s three sides to every story – your side, my side, and the truth. Sometimes, though, that’s just the start, and as 56 Days unfolds it starts to become clear that first impressions can cover any number of secrets.
Set in Dublin at the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, we’re introduced to Oliver and Ciara as they first meet. They bond over space shuttles and French 75s; when lockdown begins only a couple of days later, they decide to move in together rather than face separation. Unfortunately for them, the reader knows that someone isn’t making it out of there alive; but how and why did it all go so wrong?
56 Days is absolutely excellent – so many of these books turn into a race to the end to find out what happened, but here the reader is going to enjoy the journey just as much as the eventual discovery. It may feel like it reads fast, but that’s just because it will suck you in right from the start – I’d advise against starting this at bedtime, because putting it down again is the only part I didn’t enjoy.
This is one of the first novels I’ve read to take place in the pandemic, and it’s anything but a gimmick. Catherine Ryan Howard has captured the uncertain, unsettled feelings of those early weeks, even down to the odd guilty spark of relief at no longer needing an excuse to stay home. The atmosphere broods in the background, building up the tension and paranoia between our two doomed lovers and bolstering the uncanny feeling of something that’s just not quite right. She’s preserved a moment of time that was hard for the people living in it to put into words, and done it with beautiful clean prose that immerses a reader and keeps them captivated.
56 Days will engage, it will enthrall, and it will most definitely surprise. Easily one of my favorites for 2021, and one I’ll be recommending to everyone in need of a good book.
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