A stunning, delicate portrait of a family bookended by war, Home Fires explores the legacy of loss, the strictures of class and the long road to redemption.
Max Weston, twenty-one, leaves for his first army posting in central Africa. What happens to him changes the lives of his family forever. At home, his parents struggle to cope. The overwhelming love Caroline has always felt for her only child is now matched by the intensity of Max's absence. The silence is broken by the arrival of Caroline's mother-in-law, Elsa, who at the age of ninety-eight can no longer look after herself. After years of living in fear of putting a foot wrong in front of this elegant, cuttingly courteous lady, finally, Caroline has the upper hand.
‘Elizabeth Day writes with unflinching, responsible honesty; I was inspired and enlightened by the deep humanity of Home Fires’ Sadie Jones
‘Day is an empathetic observer. She is meticulous in teaching and dissecting each sentence her characters experience … The prose is deliberate, precise and bone dry … Elizabeth Day pursues her study of characters attempting to keep the past at bay with a biblical intensity reminiscent of early Anita Brookner and a prose style closer to that of Pat Barker … Home Fires conveys a broader version of life with the claustrophobia of emotional repression’ Eileen Battersby, Irish Times
‘Day has created a compelling study of grief, not least the conflicting ways in which the bereaved may wish to remember the dead … A bold novel, shocking in what it confronts and also in its suggestion that love will, ultimately, survive trauma’ Daily Telegraph
‘Day's great strength is her insight … An elegant, addictive portrayal of a family at war with its past. A beautifully written novel whose quietly discomfiting tone stays with you for a long while afterwards’ Observer
‘Deeply moving’ Woman's Own
‘Very sad and very lovely’ Grazia
‘An elegant meditation … Elizabeth Day's lyrical Home Fires comes highly recommended’ Viv Groskop, Observer Book of the Year
About the author
Elizabeth Day is the author of three previous novels. Her acclaimed debut Scissors, Paper, Stone, won a Betty Trask Award and Home Fires was an Observer book of the year. She is also an award-winning journalist and has written extensively for the Telegraph, The Times, the Guardian, the Observer, the Mail on Sunday, Vogue, Elle and the Evening Standard.
In modern-day England, Elsa Weston is 98, debilitated by a stroke, and furious at not being able to express herself or make her body follow orders. In 1920, she is a child trying to cope with a father she barely recalls, back from the war that has left him depressed, angry, and abusive. In between she is the elegant, contained, upper-class woman who intimidates her daughter-in-law, Caroline. In her U.S. debut, Day is excellent at showing the complexities of human relationships, making us sympathize with Elsa when we're with her, while pulling no punches about how inflexible and imperious she is when seen from Caroline's vantage point. The problem is that this subtlety is serving a larger story that isn't particularly interesting: Caroline and Andrew's son, Max, by all accounts exactly the kind of man one would want in the army, enlists and is killed during his first posting in Africa. Devastated by grief, Caroline turns away from her husband and develops a Xanax habit, and when Elsa's decline necessitates a move to Caroline and Andrew's house, everyone's isolation and anger is compounded. Day is given to telling us things we could figure out for ourselves, but the real problem is the lack of events or emotional variety in this well-intentioned but flat story.