Thursday, 16 October 2014

Book Review: All The Days And Nights - Niven Govinden

All The Days And Nights
By Niven Govinden
Published by The Friday Project
Available in Hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

All the Days and Nights, Niven Govinden's fourth novel, and second novel reviewed on Writer's Little Helper is a magnificent novel which explores the way creativity shapes and controls the life we lead.

The narrator of All the Days and Nights, Anna Brown, is a dying acclaimed artist. She is currently working on her final portrait of her muse and husband, John Brown but she can not bring herself to finish the details on John's face. The portrait must be perfect and be her final statement to the world, however, John has walked out of their home and has decided to trek across America, hunting down Anna's previous portraits that she painted of him. He has the need to move away from being the observed and become the observer - maybe some emotion captured in his younger face will help him face up the future.

Govinden's lyrical novel paints a picture of an intense relationship between muse and artist, husband and wife, agent and artist. Anna narrators the novel as if she's talking to John in a letter and maybe this is her final portrait, not of John but of both of them and their relationship over the years. Anna's narration is very personal and revealing about their relationship - tension simmers as they push and pull against the creativity that rules both of their lives. Anna is a claustrophobic, remote and recluse character while John is a character who opens up when he is around other people and is willing to be part of the community. They are both opposites and yet, their love keeps them together.

Both Anna and John are stuck in a circle and are unable to break the bonds - the art controls Anna, Anna controls John, John controls the art. There are subtle shifts of power with Anna making John sit for a portrait soon after losing the battle to save his friend's son from drowning. John's disappearance, as he tries to escape the fact that Anna is dying and therefore his role as muse is over. His journey pushes Anna further into the clutches of her creativity and away from reality. John has the power to bring her back from being consumed.

Govinden beautifully captures the sense of knowing that death is coming and the way people react, knowing that they must face the loss that is about to descend on them. John sets off to find previous portraits to find meaning in his younger face while Anna becomes more recluse and locks herself away in her studio with her final portrait sitting on the sidelines taunting her

All the Days and Nights has recently been long-listed for the Green Carnation Prize and I really hope it wins. You can buy All the Days and Nights from your favourite bookshop.

I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher.

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