I’m drawn to coming of age stories with protagonists who are social misfits so was delighted to be offered the chance to read this one.
Daniel Whitaker is 20, lives in a sleepy village in Devon and works in a small DIY shop. He likes numbers and hero worships Lord Nelson. But he finds ordinary people difficult to understand and he’s certainly never had a girlfriend. His mother mocks him, he misses his father and he pines for Ollie, his only childhood friend who truly understood him. But, despite it all, Dan thinks he’s happy enough. Until one June day, the beautiful and mysterious Libby walks into his shop – and into his life.
Libby’s sudden appearance turns Dan’s ordered existence upside down. But Dan soon realises that Libby isn’t who she seems. Who exactly is she? What is she hiding, and, more importantly, who’s that threatening man always looking for her?
In trying to help Libby, Dan comes to realise what’s missing in his own life, and, in turn, appreciates what’s really important…
I was thoroughly immersed in this touching story set mostly in the 1980s. It’s the first in a series set in the village of Little Leaf and a quick read at 225 pages but the characters have sufficient depth to leave a lasting impression. I really felt for Dan whose safe, predictable (and mundane) lifestyle comes under threat when his mother starts dating. Although Dan left school with only a certificate in cycling proficiency he has an encyclopaedic memory. He’s able to name all the US presidents, the past and present players in his favourite football team and can tell you anything about Lord Nelson. He likes routine, takes what people say literally and doesn’t understand jokes but is very skilled at making model ships. This being the 1980s, he hasn’t been given a diagnosis and is just seen as strange. At school he was bullied for being different and betrayed by his only friend Ollie. As an adult people are more tolerant of him but happy to take advantage. The people he works with in the hardware store are quite tolerant until his desire to please Libby gets him into trouble. His mum seems exasperated with him most of the time while his dad’s only piece of advice is that women are best avoided.
When Libby turns up, Dan’s smitten although to the reader her behaviour’s manipulative. And then there’s the colonel who Dan’s mum brings home. Can he be trusted? Is he who he says he is? What about the man who comes looking for Libby? Is she in danger and is Dan doing the right thing by getting involved?
The story takes place in the summer of 1985 with flashbacks from formative events in the previous decade. I enjoyed the musical references and found the scenes easy to visualise. The tension builds as different characters cross paths and Dan risks everything to save the person he loves.
I’d recommend this book to fans of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or Miriam Drori’s Cultivating A Fuji.
The kindle version of Eleven Days in June is published today and it’s also available in paperback. You can buy it here
My thanks to the author for a review copy.