“The End of the Day” Changes Perspectives

Jami Citko, Staff

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You hear a knock at the door. You open it to find a man holding a package. He tells you that his name is Charlie and that he is the Harbinger of Death. You invite him inside. You ask him why he is here. “Sometimes I come as a warning, sometimes as a courtesy,” he replies. You open the package to reveal a box of candies that you haven’t eaten since you were a child. Your mind is flooded with words, and in a flash you find them pouring out of you. He smiles and listens as you talk to your heart’s content, speaking when prompted but never interrupting. 

This mysterious man? His name is Charlie, and he is the Harbinger of Death. He comes before. Death, a sentient, human-like being, is his boss. As weird as it sounds, he enjoys the job. He is the main character of The End of the Day by Claire North. 

Other reviews that I’ve written on North’s books make clear my appreciation for them. The concepts she comes up with are genius, and this one is no exception. The four horsemen of the apocalypse employing humans to warn others of their arrival? Who comes up with this stuff? She never fails to amaze me. 

That being said, The End of the Day is not her best work. The plot is almost non-existent as there is none of the conflict-resolution structure that works of fiction tend to follow. The novel follows Charlie’s work life on his visits to various people, bringing them gifts and listening to their stories, interesting but more of an awakening than a story. 

Though the absence of plot may turn some readers off, other aspects of the novel are strong, including Charlie’s character development. In the beginning of the novel, Charlie seems almost entirely apathetic. He appears to the reader as more of a vessel than an actual person, performing tasks for Death without a personality of his own. Throughout the book, however, Charlie becomes more human. The reader is able to bond with him as they follow him on his journeys, and the importance of his role is made clear. 

As proven by her other novels, North dives deep into the human mind, reaching in, swirling some things around, and pulling out a new perspective. The End of the Day is full of references to social issues all over the world from many perspectives. This book makes people think deeper about life and the world, and it definitely succeeds. 

North exhibits a broad understanding of the world we live in, and it is clear that she has done tons of research as it is unlikely that she has visited most of the places she writes about by the age of 32, and so much of the world is represented in this novel. Charlie’s work takes him all over the globe, visiting an incredibly diverse range of people with so many different perspectives. The execution of this is eye-opening. Most people don’t think about real things going on in far-off places very often, but North brings places like Iceland, Syria, and even a few of the United States to life in the minds of people who may otherwise think nothing of them. 

Upon hearing that this book is about the Harbinger of Death, one might assume that it will be depressing. It is about death, after all. But “death” is not taken literally in most contexts in the book. “Death” actually represents change, rather than the extermination of life. Death comes not only for people but also for ideas, which makes for a refreshing outlook as the story’s focus often shifts to major changes in the world. Many of the events in the story can be seen as depressing, but they also represent hope. They represent steps toward the future. Some ideas must die to allow others to bloom. 

Claire North has, yet again, changed my outlook on life, and if you enjoy novels that are interesting and in-depth, regardless of the plot, I urge you to pick up a copy of The End of the Day.