This One Sky Day
Standalone or series
First time reading this author?
Why I picked this
I liked the sound of this, the idea of interactions across a small community all taking place in one days.
Review copy or purchase
Thank you to the author, publishers Faber & Faber and online book club Pigeonhole for the chance to read this for free. This is an honest and voluntary review.
What it’s about
I really don’t know how to explain this. Essentially it’s about the interactions between people living on an island with magical abilities and within a complex social structure. There’s a depressed chef, a wedding and families separated by bigotry. But, actually that’s not what it’s about either.
I found this quite difficult to read, and I’m not entirely sure why. It may have partly been the language – there’s a rhythm and dialect to the speech which is completely unfamiliar to me. However, I expected to get used to that the more I read. That didn’t happen and it really slowed down the pace of my reading.
The language is only part of the reason I found it difficult to engage with the plot. This is a magical realism story. Everyone on the remote island of Popisho is born with cors a special ability ranging from a kind of magic like the ability to heal, to tell when someone is lying, or a physical difference which in another place would have required major surgery if it had been survivable at all – such as the girl whose lungs are on the outside of her body.
There’s also a complex social structure with the indigent separated partly by choice and partly by being excluded from the inhabitants of the main towns. The economy is largely dependent on toys made in a factory and all sold off island, but apart from the sense that there’s some government corruption involved in this I never really understood what that was about.
And, that was largely the problem, the sense throughout that I was never quite grasping the whole picture. There was a through story of the lead up to the Governor’s daughter’s wedding, and the macaenus (a kind of chef with magical ability with a duty to feed each citizen their perfect meal once throughout their time in office). The current maceanus Xavier is dealing with the death of his wife and the expectation that her ghost will visit him to be freed of her earthly bounds, plus an addiction to moth (the drug equivalent on this island), and being forced to create a wedding feast he does not want to do. There are so many off shoots of this and sub-plots that this does not sum it up. I’m not sure any description of the plot can sum it up, and even if I sat down and told you everything that happened from beginning to end I don’t think either of us would be any the wiser about what was going on.
There are lots of elements where I could see the potential of a social commentary on racism, colonisation, homophobia, sexism, and misogyny. That this island with magic is plagued with the same horrible attitudes as demonstrated in our societies. But, these elements quite often came out of nowhere with no real explanation or link. Most noticeably when the genitals of all the women in the book suddenly fell out of them at the same time and led to a section showing how men can treat women and their sex organs as interchangeable.
I really tried to enjoy this book, but in the end it took all my energy simply to finish it. I can’t even say I’m glad I did. This is a very unusual book, unfortunately far too unusual for my tastes.