Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 21, 2017

A Chink in a Daisy-chain (2017), by Phil Day

I am reading Kruso by Lutz Seilerat the moment, a chunkster which won the German Book Prize, and because it’s a bit of a challenge, I’m breaking up the reading with other books that are not so demanding.  Phil Day’s whimsical A Chink in a Daisy-chain makes an interesting companion, because just as Kruso is an homage to Robinson Crusoe, A Chink in a Daisy-chain owes a debt to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  But it’s only 61 pages in length, and it’s absurdist and playful (which Kruso certainly isn’t).

Anna Welch in the foreword guides the journey:

Phil was beginning to get very tired of sitting by his colleague on the couch, and of having nothing to do … So begins a journey, entered via a chink in a chain of thought, as a man recalls a literary daisy-chain woven about a fictionalised girl on an imaginary riverbank on a distant golden afternoon, perhaps that of 4 July 1862.  If you follow all the links in these daisy-memory-chains, you’ll find the connections are allusive but not elusive, as long as you know your Alice.

Well, I know my Alice quite well.  I read it, and its companion Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, when I was a child,  and I reread it more than once, and we had a recording of it which we listened to obsessively (my first ever audio book!).  The narration was by the inimitable Joyce Grenfell, and I have a CD pirated from our original LP.  I can’t find any reference to this LP online, but if you don’t know Joyce Grenfell, try this video at YouTube and then imagine that wonderful resonant voice intoning Down … Down… Down. … `I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?  I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth…

All of which is to say that I have no idea how readers might enjoy Day’s deceptively rambling thoughts if they haven’t read Alice, or worse, have only encountered Disney versions of it.  But I liked it, because it’s good fun to follow the daft imagination of a creative mind.  Alice has become a middle-aged Canberran drifting through the warrens of memory, along with a disappearing cat called Hobbes, and a  colleague called Shillams, as pedantic as the White Rabbit and with a penchant for drinking home made cocktails which have the effect to which his name (reversed) gestures.  The reader instantly despises Mr S as soon as he dismisses Carroll as just playing with words.

I have categorised the book as a memoir because it draws on elements of Day’s life, but it isn’t.  It’s more of an absurdist essay so I’ve classified it as that too, alongside all those very serious Quarterly Essays.  By its very nature this little book has made me do something as absurd as trying to classify it – but it seems so mean to just leave it adrift in Uncategorised where no one will ever find it.

Its blurb says:

The book is a creative essay, cum personal reflection, on the relationship between Lewis Carrol’s Alice books, personal identity and argumentative opinion. It is the first in a three-book series Phil plans to write on the embattled nature of individual intellectual and creative autonomy.

There’s are words missing from that blurb: ‘playful’, ‘mischievous’ and ‘whimsical’.  If you know your Alice, you’ll love it.  And if you don’t, well, you really should!

Oh, and as you might expect, there are wonderful Tennielish illustrations by Day as well.

Author: Phil Day
Title: A Chink in a Daisy-chain
Publisher: Finlay Lloyd, 2017
ISBN: 9780994516527
Review copy courtesy of Finlay Lloyd

Bookshops which carry Finlay Lloyd titles can be found on the FL website.


  1. I listened to Alice Through the Looking Glass last year so it’s definitely an audio book. Think I might have remembered though if it was Joyce Grenfell. I actually had a review mapped out in my mind as I found it both familiar (of course) and unfamiliar,though i have read it in recent years to the grandkids, but other things intervened, as they do.


    • Ours was decades old, though. Recorded in the 1960s, if not before.


  2. I have this on my TBR pile too, but I have another of Finlay Lloyd’s cheeky whimsical works next to my bed that I plan to finish first, if I can just allocate the hour or two required. I hoped to go to the launch of this book in Canberra – it was a couple of months ago at one of our independent booksellers – but all the parental selling and moving busy-ness just got in the way. I wanted to see this Phil Day for myself (after his wonderful art work in Crow Mellow!)


    • Apparently his work is in some of the state galleries, and it’s quite varied. I’d love to see it…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t know that! Is any at the NGV? He lives in Victoria doesn’t he?


        • I’m going to look… (After Masterchef!)


          • Shhh…but we won’t start watching Masterchef for about an hour – so we can watch in delay and skip the ads. I hope they don’t read your blog!


  3. […] at ANZLitLovers also enjoyed the […]


  4. […] A Chink in a Daisy-chain, by Phil Day  […]


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