What’s it about?
London is underwater, and a woman gives birth to her first child. She and baby Z flee north, looking for shelter and dry ground to rebuild their lives on.
I’m going through a bit of a apocalypse-dystopia phase, but this book is so different to everything I’ve read recently. The most effective dystopian narratives are the ones that are just one or two steps removed from your own present. This does that, to some extent. The skill of this story lies in how Hunter matches the normality of day-to-day living with the extraordinariness of disaster. The reader navigates environmental disaster, marital ups and downs, and the first years of motherhood right beside the main character but is held at arm’s length.
This is as a result of Hunter’s very spare style. None of the characters have names beyond the first initial, which aids this distance. It’s written in short bursts of poetic prose, and much of the action lies in the picturesque language used. My opinion is divided on this. On the one hand, it echoes the landscape surrounding the characters and the passivity of being in the face of a natural disaster. Yet the narrative as a story could have done with more structure, some more detail to hold on to.
I enjoyed it and it stayed with me, but I feel it promised more than it delivered. Hunter’s use of language is lovely but she left a bit too much space between the words.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, I would. My nearest river bursts its banks with unexciting regularity, so the flood idea appealed to me in a kind of way. I hear that Benedict Cumberbatch has bought the film rights, and I’m quite excited to see what comes of that; I think it would make a really super film.
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter is published by Picador priced £9.99. The paperback is out on 3rd May 2018 priced £8.99.
I received an advance copy to review thanks to NetGalley.