Cover Image: When the Lights Go Out

When the Lights Go Out

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Member Reviews

This is a book of how our world is right now and how we as a society choose to ignore, this book opens our eyes to see what is really happening and what is going to happen if we are not careful. A must read.
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Emma and Chris are a married couple, going through troubled times and alongside this is a narrative on climate change, used as a metaphor for some of the issues.
It’s beautifully written but I found it a slog as there’s no real event as such, more, a narrative on relationships and the complexity therein.

I’m grateful to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to preview what, for me, was an ok read.
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When the Lights Go Out is the story of Emma, Chris and their sons, Dylan and James, who are living in north west England during a very prolonged, unseasonal spell of heavy rainfall. 
They do not see eye to eye about the climate change argument. Emma is the main breadwinner and seems to be holding the family together, while making small doable changes to their lifestyle such as recycling, using public transport and creating homemade gifts. Chris has lost a lot of his gardening work due to the effects of the inclement weather and subsequent flooding. He is taking extreme measures, such as stockpiling food in the garage and preaching in the street about the coming environmental apocalypse, regardless of the suffering he is inflicting on his family. 
In the spirit of compromise, Emma has been putting up with Chris’s strange and obsessive behaviour, but eventually she reaches her ‘red line’ and he realizes he has gone too far. I won’t spoil it for you by saying any more. 
The writing is very atmospheric – you can almost feel the dampness seeping into your bones – and the descriptions of Chris’s strange behaviour depict an evangelical obsession which echoes the religious zealotry displayed by his family (particularly his father) when he was growing up. 
The pace is quite slow to begin with, and I found it took me a while to get into the story. The point of view is split between Emma and Chris, with occasional chapters from James, and Chris’s mother Janet. I found it quite hard to empathize with Chris’s fanatical obsession, as he could no longer see how his behaviour was affecting everyone else.
 The story works on many levels: a family drama about a marriage under severe stress; all the differing views surrounding climate change; the effects of parents’ behaviour and beliefs on their children. It could have been quite a depressing tale, but is saved by the black humour.
I had not read anything by Carys Bray before, but will definitely try some of her previous books. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC to review.
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Not really the book to start reading at start of the pandemic! That said Carys Bray has a good insight into the emotions of people who are desperately trying to cope when way out of their comfort zone. 
Emma an optimist is preparing for Christmas whilst worrying about her husband Chris who appears to be preparing for the end of civilisation by spending what little money they have on stockpiling food and off the radar medications. Emma wants to pull him out of his pit of despair ,Chris wants to pull her and their sons deep into his. Emma starts to wonder if their marriage and family life will fall apart.. There are some laugh out loud moments in the book together with intense dread and foreboding. You will get sucked in even if some of the characters are difficult to like let alone love.
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I adore Carys Bray's writing: she has the knack of getting right to the heart of her characters, showing both the good and the bad while always maintaining the reader's sympathy. Her two previous novels are both, in their own way, examinations of grief and recovery, and both sparkle with humanity and unexpected wit. With that being said, I found When The Lights Go Out a really tough read in many ways. Having recently moved to a rainy and flood-prone area of England, the descriptions of endless, bucketing winter rain were horrifyingly real, and the character of Chris tugged on my heartstrings, leaving me feeling desperately sad. It's a wonderfully written book and, as with many recent novels that explore disaster and/or dystopia, felt terrifyingly prescient in ways that the author obviously never intended in a pre-Covid world. I found it a tougher read than Bray's previous books for all of these reasons, but very much worth reading.
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This is an extremely well written and thoughtful novel. Bray's characters and situations are believable and their individual personalities shine out. The story is well constructed and engrossing. But above all, this is a thought-provoking novel that is particularly appropriate reading right now, as we are still in the Covid-19 pandemic. I highly recommend it.

The novel centres on Chris, Emma and their family. It is set some time in the near future to the backdrop of climate change where they live with constant rain, unemployment and the constant psychological stress of trying to continue normal life while knowing that life will never be 'normal' again. Emma tries to do what she can - being vegetarian, using energy sparingly, making useful hand-made items as Christmas gifts. Chris is catastrophising and has become more extreme; his actions will eventually put them all at risk.

It's a difficult book to read if you are conscious of climate change (who isn't?) and feel that you should be doing more about it. Emma's valiant efforts, which are probably similar to what many people are doing today, seem futile and insignificant in the face of the continuing downpour and the sense of impending doom. Chris' survivalist behaviour is distressing his wife and kids, and you can see that he is close to being pushed over the edge by his worry about the future. His actions - like buying antibiotics online from some source his wife doesn't trust - seem extreme.

And yet... Here we are in the midst of a natural catastrophe. Not climate change (yes, that's still there but it's somewhat on the back burner for now) but Covid-19. Buying surgical masks online for delivery from China and worrying if we are making ourselves and our families safer or putting them at risk of breathing in lung-damaging microparticles. Uncertain whether stocking up on toilet paper is a wise move or a ridiculous over-reaction. Questioning every decision, from whether it's safe to see a friend (and should we both be wearing masks or not?) to whether you'll put off seeing a doctor until it feels safer to go into a medical facility.

In this context, Emma and Chris' reactions appear all-too believable and understandable. And while some readers may feel that Emma is level-headed and Chris has lost it, others will feel Chris is the one seeing reality and Emma is fiddling while Rome burns. You'll certainly be asking yourself 'where do I fit in this spectrum of worry/activism/powerless acceptance?'.

Covid-19 will, hopefully, become less of a threat in the coming months. Climate change won't. This novel will remain a timely and valuable challenge, prompting readers to think about what's happening and what their personal responsibility might be.

My thanks to Netgalley for giving me a free copy of this book. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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"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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.)
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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.
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