14,765 book reviews and counting...

Books in the Media Update

This website is no longer being updated; theBookseller.com is the home of all books related-content and will continue to be updated with regular articles about books featured in the media. Thank you for using this website, and we hope you join us on theBookseller.com.

When the Lights Go Out Reviews

When the Lights Go Out by Carys Bray

When the Lights Go Out

Carys Bray

4.00 out of 5

7 reviews

Imprint: Hutchinson
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publication date: 12 Nov 2020
ISBN: 9781786332349
4 stars out of 5
7 Dec 2020

"The British writer brilliantly explores the delicate ecosystem of a long marriage"

This book has too many vignettes of ecological disaster for my tastes, but Bray is a fine writer, and she is brilliant in her explorations of the delicate ecosystem of a long marriage: “There was a time in their marriage when talking, like sex, was recreational, a chance to rub their ideas up against each other and experience some relief in the sharing. Now, she [Emma] can’t fathom how to talk without making things worse.”


4 stars out of 5
22 Nov 2020

"(A) clear-eyed, wry, wise novel"

If When the Lights Go Out culminates in grim fireworks, Bray offers her characters and readers some measure of hope. It is Emma’s vision of modest but meaningful action that triumphs, if not against the rages of a warming planet – which the novel, even as it lays out Chris’s excesses, never looks to downplay – then against despair. And while Bray wisely resists the cheap balm of tidy reconciliation, she does show us the fundaments of a way forward.

“And they lived,” this clear-eyed, wry, wise novel ends. “Not always happily. But they lived.”

4 stars out of 5
Suzi Feay
19 Nov 2020

"...(a) subtle and timely satire"

With sharp wit, Bray teases out the tiny domestic dramas, identifying the pinch points that can make the most solid relationships briefly or permanently unendurable. Emma’s dead Christmas tree and its improvised replacement – a stepladder covered in fairylights – symbolise her dogged willingness to keep the family traditions alive in the face of indifference and chaos. Bray shows how the most well-regulated household – and the Abrams’ is hardly that – can still tremble on the brink of collapse. What message could be more timely than that?

4 stars out of 5
Lucy Knight
15 Nov 2020

"When the Lights Go Out ultimately asks a pertinent question: what does it mean to be good, or happy, or prepared, and which of these is most important?"

Returning to the relationship between religion and obsession for When the Lights Go Out, Bray this time tackles the climate crisis through the lens of rigid religious belief. It’s a fresh, topical perspective, told expertly by Bray, a lapsed Mormon herself. There’s plenty of detail and symbolism here, although never at the expense of the plot. 

4 stars out of 5
12 Nov 2020

"While not the most cheerful of reads, it is superb on family dynamics. "

It works on many levels; sanctimonious Chris, fixated on the planet’s problems, fails to recognise those right under his nose, within his own marriage. And the eventual disaster that engulfs everyone is of his doing, not the ozone layer.

While not the most cheerful of reads, it is superb on family dynamics. My favourite character was Janet, a brilliantly ghastly creation.

4 stars out of 5
Hannah Beckerman
8 Nov 2020

"a timely and ruminative novel"

Bray’s third novel examines the disintegration of a marriage against a backdrop of the climate crisis. When Emma finds her husband, Chris, wearing a sandwich board in the street, trying to raise environmental awareness, her reaction is a mixture of embarrassment, resignation and pity. Chris’s endeavours to avert climate disaster test Emma’s patience and the strength of their relationship in a timely and ruminative novel.


4 stars out of 5
Melissa Katsoulis
4 Nov 2020

"The tale of a British family preparing for apocalypse is intelligent, timely and powerful, "

There is no whimsy here. No cheap, easy imagery (crows, I’m talking about you). This is a powerful and truthful story about hope and how to find it. Eschatology with rabbits and needlecraft. It’s intelligent, truly timely and subtly reassuring.