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When the Floods Came by Clare Morrall
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When the Floods Came

by Clare Morrall

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I wonder what drew Morrall to write a post-apocalyptic novel. With Margaret Atwood it seems to me that she wants to warn us about where we’re heading, McCarthy wanted to capture the feeling of living in such a hopeless state while Bradbury was perhaps warning readers about what transpires when people are too lethargic and wrapped up in meaningless media. And Wyndham used it largely to create a Robinson Crusoe-like plot.

A quarter of the way into the book Morrall seems to be interested in quite a range of issues from censorship to parent/offspring relationships but I felt the novel lacked a raison d’être. Rosa is rather a bland narrator, the mysterious Aarshay is artificially kept under wraps by the author since the family isn’t allowed to press hard enough to find out about him and Boris seems more like a thirteen year old adolescent than a twenty year old.

And plot-wise it seems to lack direction. Yes, Hector, Rosa’s fiancé is cycling from Brighton to see her and the whole family is cycling to Coventry and they’ve played their totally uninteresting stairs game.

I guess I also feel let down by Morrall’s choice of the apocalypse. Climate change has brought floods but the main wiping out of the majority of people in England was some kind of virus so China and the USA are giving aid to the survivors in one form or another. In reality, with climate change, we face a world of extremes, heat being the main one, and no one anywhere is exempt. People won’t be able to fix up things and scavenge. If the environment doesn’t kill us first, then our stressful reactions to decreasing resources will lead to wars. In other words, Morrall’s vision of the future seems irrelevant to me from the start.

There’s also Morrall’s nursery rhyme conceit running through the novel, linking so many incidents to nursery rhymes. When Hector warns Roza about the way Dan’s lights might be there to entice them to his building, Roza thinks ‘The witch’s gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel. The Pied Piper leading the children out of Hamelin with his music’. Morrall even inserts allusions when she is not wanting to make a comparison – ‘Come on, we’ll eat those kilometres before they have time to sing a song of sixpence’ Roza tells Boris as they catch up with their family. So why does Morrall connect everything to what she establishes is a communal history? I can’t really see beyond it being a rather stilted, formulaic attempt to give another level of meaning to the novel.

In a novel where the plot has a major part it is important for it to be convincing enough. This one wasn’t. England is isolated from the rest of Europe and there are precious few children and people’s fertility has gone to pot. I can’t see why, though, with IVF of the future, populations couldn’t be built up again. Altogether, England’s isolation is overplayed and there’s also a lot of repetition, for example about how ageing Popi is slowing down. And the ending? As unconvincing and unfulfilling as the rest of the book, I’m afraid. ( )
  evening | Mar 27, 2016 |
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Book description
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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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?… (more)

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