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The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The End We Start From (2017)

by Megan Hunter

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I read this in one sitting. It is an account, narrated in poetic snippets, of a cataclysmic flooding of London just as the unnamed narrator goes into labor. She, her husband, and her baby become refugees. The narrator is less concerned with giving details of this apocalyptic event than with observing how her son grows and reaches his milestones, just as all new mothers do. The effect is a reminder of what's important, a cutting through of the detritus of modern life to the basics of just being alive. This works, I think, because of the spare and simple style of the writing, which omits the details but retains the emotions, and its structure like an epic poem, interspersed with lines from religious and mythological texts. ( )
  sturlington | Aug 4, 2018 |
‘’In the darkness demons flew. Their shapes made a fearful noise until a voice called out, and they were still, and the silence was complete.’’

When we have read 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale , it is reasonable to believe that it would be rather difficult to be touched by any other dystopian novel. Yet, we may be mistaken. At least, I was. Frightfully. I frankly don’t know where to begin with The End We Start From. It shocked me, frightened me, moved me and disturbed me. And as far as I am concerned, it managed to enter my personal Holy Trinity of dystopian novels.

The story starts with a birth, the eternal symbol of life, hope and continuation. An unnamed couple is one of the few remaining parents of a hospital before it’s forced to close down. Why?Because terrible floods have been plaguing the land and London has become almost uninhabitable. There is no electric power, no internet, no television, no work and food has become scarce. They abandon their flat in order to find shelter in camps, in areas that are still dry. The odyssey of coping with a new way of life is the heart of the novel.

‘’Our city is here,somewhere, but we are not.’’

How does someone find the strength to carry one once everything is lost? Where do we find courage to survive and, perhaps, build our lives again? One of the most powerful motives- if not THE most powerful- is the welfare of our children. The mother, who is our sole eyes and ears in the entire story, finds comfort in the company of other mothers who try to provide for their newborns, and in watching her own son grow day by day. Little Z is blissfully unaware of the situation and discovers the world through his own instinct with his mother’s help.One of the ways she implores to keep her sanity is going back, retreating in childhood memories.

‘’Once someone knocked me over. An accident, I presumed. He didn’t look back.’’

Humanity lies at the heart of the story. Why does she say ‘’presumed’’ to refer to a past incident? An accident we all have faced, especially when commuting daily. Is the spreading of inhumanity and personal isolation one of the signs and causes of disaster? Perhaps we need to face a universal catastrophe in order to realise how wrong we have been, how imprisoned in our microcosm? The mother doesn’t answer her own questions, she contemplates, tries to find something that could possible make sense and hold on until a new day dawns.

To talk about themes, characters and language in this book seems to me dry and completely unnecessary. There is no dialogue, only short sentences that reminded me of the best examples of existential poetry. And yet, in two short paragraphs there is more character development than we meet in whole chapters in other books. The mother’s voice is completely humane, sometimes desperate,most of the times calm and acute.

The story of Noah from the Old Testament, the Greek myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha are constantly used in the narration. Most civilizations have their own myth of the Flood as a punishment for the avarice of men. Perhaps, mankind has been afraid of the power of water since the beginning of Time, perhaps we’ve known the damage we cause to everything that was given to us. There are also many references to myths of the Creation from many different cultures.

I don't think that anyone who is going to read this novel will manage to remain indifferent. It is a beautiful book, with a moving, profound and hopeful conclusion. A breath of fresh air in the zombie-filled, tortured and abused Dystopian Genre, a novel that we’re going to discuss for years to come…

ARC kindly provided by Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for an honest review. ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
this feels like it was written by a new mother enamoured with her new baby. the depiction of the shock of new motherhood is the only part of this book that manages to draw out any sort of emotion, but is also really the only focus of the story, despite the dystopian setting. the entire thing feels oddly detached. the characters are barely there and i didn't really care about anyone, including the baby. the prose was beautiful though - stark and lyrical at the same time and i was really into how specific the language and descriptions were. the undetailed catastrophe is nice and enigmatic. a quick, interesting read, but for me, ultimately pointless. ( )
  basilisky | Jun 3, 2018 |
I finished this book in one sitting (which, admittedly, isn't very hard to do, since it's relatively short and sparsely written - in the best sense). We follow an unnamed woman as she, her husband, and their newborn baby must get to safety after a near-apocalyptic flooding in England. We know only what she does - snippets from the news; food shortages, civil unrest. Her whole being is centered on this little baby that she clings to the same way that he clings to her - for life and love. Megan Hunter is a beautiful writer, able to convey so much in a bundle of short sentences. ( )
  kaylaraeintheway | May 31, 2018 |
This book was shared with my by my daughter-in-law, who is a midwife and mother of young children. She loved it. Its probably the perfect book for a young mother who only has brief segments of time for any personal reading.
This book is very different from what I usually read. As a novel in an end-times setting, it gives little detail about the disaster. The focus is on the thoughts and emotions of a mother who gives birth just as everything is changing. Told in somewhat of a dreamstate, or now-centered, I interpret this as being similar to the immediacy-focus of a new mother...everything is centered around the child's needs, everything reflects the disrupted patterns of a mother whose rest is constantly interrupted to nurse or tend to the newborn. (Or, as an older adult, I also wonder if this disjointed flow reflects an author who was raised on short-segmented TV cartoon soundbites.) People are identified only by initial, which keeps us from assigning race, culture or other pre-concevied notions. The first person narrative is periodically broken by an italicized sentence, which seem to be quotes from some description of the endtime events, but not from a scientific or reporter view. They seem to be as a world beginning might be told millenia from now. At first I tried to match them with the events the narrator is going thru, but couldn't completely make it work that way. The author does mention that she modeled those sections after various creation myths she had researched. ( )
  juniperSun | Mar 25, 2018 |
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What we call the beginning is often the end / And to make an end is to make a beginning. / The end is where we start from. - T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
For my mother and my son.
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I am hours from giving birth, from the event I thought would never happen to me, and R has gone up a mountain.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In an alternate-world modern London submerged below flood waters, a woman who has just given birth to her first child is forced to flee her home with her baby to seek refuge in a variety of locations while the baby thrives against all odds.

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