Cover Image: When the Lights Go Out

When the Lights Go Out

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

My thanks to Random House U.K./Cornerstone Hutchinson for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘When the Lights Go Out’ by Carys Bray in exchange for an honest review.

‘Global temperatures are rising.
The climate of the Abrams’ marriage is cooling.’

Emma’s marriage is going through a difficult patch. Her husband, Chris, is convinced that the world is coming to an end and is trying to prepare his family by stockpiling food and off-label medicines while having them practice their survival skills. 

He is exasperated by Emma’s optimism and wishes  that she would share a bit of his dread. Their situation is further disrupted by financial instability, torrential rains, power cuts and the unexpected arrival of Chris’s mother. As Christmas approaches tensions mount.

Carys Bray expertly balances drama with a touch of tragedy and a few lighter moments in this contemporary literary novel.  

I felt that it was a beautifully written novel that effectively tapped into the anxiety that runs close to the surface in modern society. It also explores issues linked to marriage, parental relationships, and faith. There were many well observed vignettes throughout, though a few scenes linked to animals proved a little difficult for me to read. 

Previously I read her acclaimed debut novel, ‘A Song for Issy Bradley’ for a reading group. I would expect that ‘When the Lights Go Out’ will also proof popular with reading groups as alongside good writing it provides plenty of topics for discussion. 

A thought provoking and well observed novel.
Was this review helpful?
This is a beautiful depiction of the struggles of family life. It struck the right balance of thoughtful without being morbid. There are humorous moments but the heart wrenching aspects of the story are just as important. A very timely read with all that is happening in the world.
Was this review helpful?
With thanks to Netgalley and Cornerstone, Penguin Randomhouse for a digital copy of this book. How to do justice to this book? The writing is exceptional, so lyrical it often reads like poetry. Dense in adjectives,  the reader is plunged into a world which they can see, feel, hear - so vivid and unique are the descriptions. The book starts wet, drenched in weather of almost biblical proportion,’the rain falls and falls..Collecting in divots and rolling away in search of its level,’ and this weather system holds fast through the pages of the books. I would look up from my reading and be surprised to find light and sunshine. Chris and Emma’s marriage is under strain, as fragile as the flood barriers they are trying to shore up around their home which was built on a flood plain. Chris has let the adverse weather seep into his thoughts and waking consciousness and become obsessed with a ‘fresh dread of the future’ and ‘imagining the loss of everything he holds dear.’ Every waking moment is filled with the news of environmental devastation and his small man struggles to avoid personal catastrophe- reducing consumption, planting seeds, keeping rabbits. But like the rain, Chris’ obsession feels more and more out of control. Emma is gentle, patient, creative, loving, but Chris’ obsession is affecting all the family - his unhappiness dries out the laughter, stokes up tension and ultimately puts them all in danger. This powerful novel is about so many things - family, love, understanding, forgiveness, marriage, finding perspective in a damaged and damaging world. The characters are so carefully observed: Emma nurturing, patient, the peacekeeper; Chris in crisis, in the grip of an obsession which risks his humanity; the boys shaking off childhood as they emerge into adults yet holding onto the family traditions that knit them together. Janet -struggling to find her place in a world which is forgetting faith and forgetting her. The writing is absolutely beautiful and haunting.
Was this review helpful?
"When the Lights Go Out" is a beautifully written story. Carys Bray leads you to a keyhole to watch one particular family, their struggles and solutions, and their everyday lives. Are they an ordinary family? Yes and no - in the same ways that any family is ordinary or not. The characters are solid and carry the story firmly on their shoulders... and the story is heart-warming and heart-wrenching at the same time. Perfect.
My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an advance copy to review. This review is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
Was this review helpful?
It took me a while to get into this book but really enjoyed it when I did. I loved the writing style of this author and ive never read her books before so will definitely be giving more of them a go. Thank you netgalley for the opportunity to read this title in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
A pertinent and humourous book to keep you company during the current lockdown and societal upheaval. This book feels incredibly relevant! Not great if you like to read as a form of escapism, as it will probably hit some nerves, but if you're feeling a bit like Chris at the moment, it might be the book for you!
Was this review helpful?
Despite - or rather, because of - its rather depressing subject, this story about personal relationships in a time of potentially apocalyptic change for our planet and way of life should be essential reading. I loved the writing style and the cast of complex but believable characters. I shall be looking for more by Carys Bray.
Was this review helpful?
An insightful and thought-provoking novel that explores some serious themes with a light touch that never veers over into melodrama. It’s about a marriage in crisis and family dynamics, well-observed and intelligent. Chris and Emma are happily married with 2 children but Chris is becoming more and more obsessed and fanatical about climate change and the need to be prepared. He frets endlessly about the future of mankind. He wants Emma to share in his angst – but she can’t. And Chris finds Emma’s optimism increasingly frustrating while she finds his preparation for a disaster that might never come equally frustrating. Thoroughly enjoyable novel of marital discord and the pressures of two opposing world views.
Was this review helpful?
During Covid-19 lockdown and reading a book about a husband fixated with the end of the world was maybe not the wisest choice I've ever made but I did enjoy this book.
The story takes place in the days leading up to Christmas.  Emma, husband Chris and their two boys live in a house in an area threatened by climate change flooding.  Chris is on a downward spiral into a deep depression.  His job as a gardener is at a standstill due to the weather, his religious background, his relationship with his late father and the never ending rain have all added to this.  Until now Emma has coped with everything life has handed her and accepted it all as her lot in life but when Chris starts to unravel she finally begins to question their relationship. Other family members are introduced and their stories add well to the mix.
Carys Bray has written a sensitive story about how Chris's behaviour and actions affect the whole family but surprisingly the story subject doesn't drag you down. The author's brilliant character images and skilled writing keep you engaged to the end.   
Thank you to NetGalley, the publishers and the author for an advance reading copy.
Was this review helpful?
In his position as hunter gatherer and protector of his family group, Chris’s beliefs in climate change become misaligned due to anxieties about the future and his quest to ensure his family are safe. He feels they are  on the path to Armageddon, with stormy conditions, floods and grey skies depicting the scene . Emma, his wife on the other hand whilst conscious of these environmental issues does not see things as Chris does, in her eyes, they are not facing impending doom. The book takes us through each characters frailties, initially dealing with biblical style flash floods. . Chris at the forefront leading his family by example, a one man extinction rebellion.. His overwhelming obsession with his thought processes gradually wearing Emma down. As we read further we discover more about his upbringing and desire to bring his family round to his way of thinking.  Having previously read A Song for Issy Bradley by the same author I was happy  to read another, though a little depressing in places it didn’t disappoint.

Thank you to Netgalley the author and publishers Random House UK for an ARC of this book.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately I found this book very slow and quite dull, and maybe the subject matter isn't ideal reading at the current time! I have adored her other books but unfortunately this one just didn't work for me.
Was this review helpful?
A story about climate change and the disintegration of a marriage. It took me a while to get into this book. It was a bit strange reading about this topic during the current lockdown. 

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
Was this review helpful?
I struggled with When The Lights Go Out.  I loved The Museum Of You, but somehow I couldn’t get into this one.

This is the study of a marriage between two people with very different outlooks, and of the effects of climate change which also form a sort of backdrop metaphor for coping with the changing of a relationship as it ages.  Carys Bray still writes very well and has her trademark keen-eyed but compassionate insight into her characters’ flaws and foibles.  It may just be me or the times we’re living in, but even this couldn’t grip me this time.  The combination of Chris and Emma, both of whom have a fixed and unrealistic view of life – pessimistic and optimistic respectively – plus the relentless, oppressive atmosphere of the weather just failed to engage me and I really struggled to get through to the end (even with some judicious skimming).

I’m sorry to be critical of a fine author whose work I have liked very much in the past; others plainly liked this, too, but I’m afraid it wasn’t for me.

(My thanks to Random House, Cornerstone for an ARC via NetGalley.)
Was this review helpful?
This is a family saga exploring the relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, as cracks begin to appear in a marriage and how the various family members deal with the turmoil.. 
My thanks to Net galley, the publisher and the author for allowing me to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Sorry I didn’t complete reading this book, I found the topic a bit too difficult at this particular point in time.

Thanks for letting me review this book.
Was this review helpful?
0 out of 5 stars A timely and thought-provoking read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 May 2020
This is the third book I’ve read by Carys Bray and I’ve really enjoyed them all. She has a gift for creating empathetic and believable characters, placing them in challenging situations and telling a compelling and engaging story.

Emma and Chris have been married for about 20 years and have two teenage sons. They live in a coastal town in North West England (anyone who lives locally will recognise Southport, where all Bray’s books are set) and have both become increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change on their lives, including the safety and security of their home. However for Chris it turns from a concern to an overwhelming obsession. The rain never seems to stop, coastal towns and farmland are flooded and everything in their home is becoming more and more damp and mouldy. Chris’ gardening work is drying up as the land he used to work on becomes submerged and bogged down. His reaction to this is to catastrophise and become obsessed with preparing for a global apocalypse, but his increasingly evangelical and erratic actions will ultimately have a devastating effect on his family.

When the Lights Go Out is certainly a timely read! If you think back to the beginning of 2020 our main concerns (apart from the B word) were the fires in Australia and storms and flooding in England. We hadn’t quite reached the stage where society had closed down (that came a few weeks later of course, and for a different reason), but everyone had been affected to some degree by the way the environment is changing and the world that Emma and her husband Chris inhabit is scarily close to home. Carys Bray writes beautifully about human relationships and I found this a compelling and very thought-provoking read.
Was this review helpful?
When reading ‘When the lights go out’ first and foremost you have to applaud the author for her wonderful use of language in this exploration of the intricacies and flawed nature of marriage and family life amidst the current state of the world. Heavily focusing on the environment and climate change and what that means for the marriage of Chris and Emma,this is a storyline that couldn’t be more timely if it tried.
BUT my goodness, it makes for gloomy depressing reading if I’m brutally honest. Or at least that was my initial thought. Due to the themes of this novel I don’t think you can expect it to be a laugh a minute read although I could appreciate the dark humour that underlies this narrative, chuckling at the actions of the characters, mainly Chris, providing some levity to the weighty and serious issues that concern this family in particular.
It’s set mainly over the course of one Christmas period and the gloomy feeling that descended over me whilst reading this wasn’t helped by the constant rain and flooding that is integral to the storyline. Vivid descriptions of the oppressive weather and effects on the landscape perfectly set the scene. I admit I did struggle initially to engage with Emma and Chris but I am glad I persevered. Their marriage is like the climate, possibly in its last dying throes and I can understand why Emma has reached the end of her tether with Chris. As a character he is the most pessimistic individual you could imagine, planning for survival in a scenario where the end of the world is nigh,stockpiling all manner of useful commodities . If I’d been living with him I’m afraid he’d be buried somewhere in the garden very quickly,maybe despatched in the same manner of his description of ways to kill a rabbit!! Forced to endure a childhood with his fervently religious parents Janet and Frank,he’s turned his back on all that but now chooses to rant and catastrophise about the end of the world. Bizarrely,as I warmed up to the storyline I found him a subject for ridicule (which I realise isn’t very kind!) especially when you understand his actions in relation to the family household (no spoilers here). He seems to be on a path of self destruction and in doing so may destroy his marriage too. Had this been a more lighthearted novel I could envisage Chris and Emma as a modern day Tom and Barbara from The Good Life (minus the jollity). Forced into a lifestyle of make do and mend, Emma’s culinary inventions are both interesting and revolting in equal measure. The arrival of Janet into the household doesn’t help matters and my sympathies lay totally with Emma in coping with her mother in law as well as her husband. She deserved a medal for patience at the very least and I could empathise with her bubbling resentment.
The boys Dylan and James added a lighter touch to the proceedings I thought, although the way one of them referred to his mother as Emma Jane really grated on me.
Religion features heavily in this novel and whilst not god fearing myself again I could appreciate and understand its relevance to Chris and Emma’s marriage as well as the biblical references to the climate and environment. In that sense this novel makes for quite sobering reading whilst challenging the grey matter and may be off putting for some. When the lights go out is such an intelligent, at times beautifully written, novel which makes it such a worthwhile read. Analogies likening the home as a third skin(epidermis and clothes being the other two) is just one example of the exquisite writing. 
If you can get past the initial few pages then I think many will enjoy this novel and it’s one of those books that I feel will improve with a second reading. The dark humour gradually increased throughout so that by the tentatively hopeful ending I was more attuned to that than I’d originally deemed possible, hence my four star review.
My thanks as always to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read.
Was this review helpful?
It took me a while to get into this book but really enjoyed it when I did. I loved the writing style of this author and ive never read her books before so will definitely be giving more of them a go. Thank you netgalley for the opportunity to read this title in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
It took me a while to get really into this book and there were times I thought I might give up;  However, I stuck with it and eventually found it enjoyable.  There is humour in here - particularly the mother in law - and that was most welcome. I can't say I particularly warmed to any of the characters - I think Ruth was the one who got most of my sympathy. I thought after the ditch incident she should have walked away from the lot of them and never gone back.
Was this review helpful?
⭐2 Stars ⭐

A story about distance, its causes and effects.

Carys Bray details a marriage laden with dissatisfaction and obsession whilst capturing the mundanity of everyday domestic life. The internal conflicts create a melancholic atmosphere to the book, doubled by its commentary on the climate crisis which is a welcome addition to this drama.

Generations battle and as faith and science clash, the family falls apart. A sense of impending doom becomes this novel and despite its ending rain continues to fall and little really changes.

Trigger Warnings: Animal Neglect, Animal Death, Abuse, Gas Leaks.

I received an advance review copy for free via NetGalley. I am leaving this review voluntarily 📚
Was this review helpful?