I’m pleased to share my review for The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper again to celebrate paperback publication day in the UK. Thank you to Zaffre Books and Reader’s First for a hardback copy of the book at the start of the year. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes wilt under the California sun.
At some point during the long, long afternoon Joyce Haney, a seemingly happy housewife and mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind only two terrified young children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.
With the stifling heat of Tangerine and the gripping pace of Little Deaths, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and, ultimately, underestimated.
This was a book of many genres, including a mystery (Joyce is missing), racial history (the treatment of Ruby and her family) and social history (the stay at home because your husband told you to era). I must admit that when I first started the book I wasn’t sure about whether I was going to enjoy it, but quickly I was drawn into the world of Sunnylakes, California where women didn’t appear to have a voice and I didn’t want to put it down.
Mick (Detective Blanke) has moved to California to escape the furore that his affair with a woman linked to one of his cases caused. He meets Ruby Wright for the first time at the police station when she was arrested after the disappearance of her employer, Joyce Haney. Mick and Ruby were the stand out characters for me in this book, neither fit in with the Sunnylakes residents but both were determined to find out the truth about Joyce.
The story moves along at a cracking pace, with the occasional chapter heading back in time to allow Joyce to fill us in on what happened on the day she suddenly vanished. The book is full of flawed characters, many of whom are pretending to be someone they aspire to, rather than celebrating their own unique personalities and interests. I will never be able to look at a pot of geraniums in the same way, after reading this.
I’m used to reading about how the UK, where I was born and still live, is full of class divisions. However, this book suggests that California was as bad, or even worse in 1959. Life was very different in 1959 to 2021 in terms of sexism and racism.
The investigations into Joyce’s disappearance lead to a number of suspects and I must admit I kept changing my mind, due to the excellent suspense created by Inga Vesper. This is a no spoiler review, so I won’t be giving clues about what happened to Joyce. However I would like Miss Ruby Wright to have her own series of books, she was my favourite book character of January 2021.
This is an impressive debut novel, full of twists and turns and would be perfect for lounging by the pool on a summer holiday. I’m looking forward to reading more by Inga Vesper in the future and I’m happy to recommend this book to readers of my blog.