Ahoy there mateys! This was a random find in a local library that I just had to pick up. Why? Because I love post-apocalyptic stories that deal with climate change. As the title suggests, this one deals with flooding. The bonus was that it was written by a British writer. I love to read other countries takes on climate change.
Side note: This book was referenced as Cli-Fi in an article. That term cracks me up!
The story centers around Roza Polanski and her family living in an abandoned building in Birmingham. A virus has devastated the population and flooding has led to the ruination of most population centers. There is a small government in Brighton. Having been there, this fact entertained me to no end. Technology is slowly failing due to lack of maintenance and the number of people is in steady decline due to virus related fertility issues. The people that do exist are in the later stages of life and there are not many children or teens.
Roza’s parents are one of the few couples to remain fertile and had four children. Her childhood is a seemingly happy one despite the family’s isolation. The children are fed, loved, fairly healthy, educated, and safe. Roza is set to be married soon and life seems to be headed towards a hopeful future. However, one day a stranger named Aashay appears in their lives. His presence brings a fresh perspective on the state of the world to the Polanskis and leads them away from their isolation. But can they trust this stranger in their midst and retain their safety?
The world building was me favorite part of the novel. I loved the images of riding bikes on abandoned highways, how the flooding cycles through, the family’s resourcefulness and intelligence, and above all the inter-family relationships. It was wonderful to see a family who was supportive and cared for each other.
The plot was more problematic for me. Aashay is charming and mysterious and not very forthcoming with his past. The family is seemingly charmed by him and suspicious of him the whole time. I got somewhat annoyed by the waffling which, to be fair, is a pet peeve of mine. There is some suspense in the second half of the novel which was extremely fun but overall the later portion of the book along with the ending was unsatisfying. Too many unanswered questions.
I was mostly confused by how an intelligent family could waffle so much about Aashay. Can charm really go that far? Well apparently the author wrote about that based on her own experiences. An article from The Independent says “Take Aashay Kent, the novel’s ambiguous male lead and dead-ringer for Epstein’s Lucifer. ‘I became interested in the concept of charm,’ Morrall says, offering as an example one of her daughter’s ex-boyfriends. ‘One in particular was quite an intriguing man we were all charmed by. Then you realise, bit by bit, there was quite a nasty underside to him. Then he comes bouncing back with a great big grin. The bizarre thing is you know what you see is not the reality, and yet the way this charisma works is you are drawn back into it.’”
Very interesting. The novel was a solid read even if I had some problems with it. Ultimately I am glad I read this book and would read other works by the author.
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
A taut, gripping novel set in the future, when the lives of a family existing on the margins of a dramatically changed society are upset by a mysterious stranger.
In a world prone to violent flooding, Britain, ravaged 20 years earlier by a deadly virus, has been largely cut off from the rest of the world. Survivors are few and far between, most of them infertile. Children, the only hope for the future, are a rare commodity.
For 22-year-old Roza Polanski, life with her family in their isolated tower block is relatively comfortable. She’s safe, happy enough. But when a stranger called Aashay Kent arrives, everything changes. At first he’s a welcome addition, his magnetism drawing the Polanskis out of their shells, promising an alternative to a lonely existence. But Roza can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to Aashay than he’s letting on. Is there more to life beyond their isolated bubble? Is it true that children are being kidnapped? And what will it cost to find out?
Clare Morrall, author of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Astonishing Splashes of Colour, creates a startling vision of the future in a world not so very far from our own, and a thrilling story of suspense.
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