Review: A Country of Eternal Light by Paul Dalgarno

A Country of Eternal Light is a story of memory and grief with one almighty and powerful twist at the end. Margaret Bryce has passed away and is finding herself rewatching all of the big events that shaped her life, as well as watching how her death impacts those who are closest to her. We see important moments in history from Margaret's home of Aberdeen as well as her family life, in particular her life as a wife of a tradesperson and mother of twins, Rachel and Eva who couldn't be more different. We watch as Margaret takes trips to visit her adult daughters, Rachel's life in Melbourne with her partner Gem and their two sons, and Eva's somewhat more mysterious life in Spain. However, what really holds this novel together is the sense that things that something isn't quite adding up--what is Margaret hiding not just the reader, but from herself?

I absolutely refuse to spoil or drop hints about this one, because the twist at the end is one best discovered by the reader themselves. Dalgarno's prose is both inviting and clever and I found myself pulled inside Margaret's world, whilst getting glimpses into the lives of the people she is close to. My favourite scenes were the ones set in Melbourne during lockdown as Margaret watches from afar, knowing that, despite everything, Rachel has turned out okay and her family are doing fine. The novel raises some questions about memory and facing up to ones past and presents them in a way that I thought was both beautifully done and interesting to me, the reader.

A beautiful novel.

Highly recommended.

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