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The Flood by Ian Rankin

The Flood (1986)

by Ian Rankin

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5061530,660 (3.13)29



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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Ian Rankin published this book when he was 26 and still a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh. It only sold a few hundred copies at the time but it confirmed him as an author and he soon published his first Rebus mystery. This book is a reissue of the original so it's not a valuable first edition but it is very interesting to me as a long time fan of Ian Rankin's. I recently saw him at McNally Robinson Booksellers answering questions and telling stories. He is a great raconteur as well as a great writer.

This book is set in a small former mining town in Fife. Mary Miller had a traumatic experience when she was young when she fell into the "hot burn", a runoff of chemicals and water from the mine. She woke up the next day with her hair turned completely white. (This is one example of Rankin's immaturity as a writer; hair cannot turn white overnight and a more seasoned writer would have checked before putting that in a book.) From that time on the local people thought Mary was a witch especially when one of the boys responsible for her fall into the burn died in the mine as the result of a fireball. When Mary was only 15 she became pregnant and gave birth to a son called Sandy. Rumours abound as to who was the father of the boy but Mary never tells. The main action of this book takes place when Sandy is fifteen. He falls in love with a gypsy girl who strings him along with stories about how horrible her brother and her aunt are to her. Mary is also dating, the first time since she became pregnant. Her boyfriend is a teacher at her son's school. The two struggle through the ups and downs of relationships while the villagers gossip about both of them.

As Rankin admits in his introduction to the book, the fictional town was heavily drawn from his own home town. He doesn't say if any of Sandy's experiences are based on his own but there does seem to be quite a bit of detail that only a teenage boy could experience.

In the final analysis this is not the best example of Rankin's writing craft but it is certainly better than a lot of first works. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 17, 2018 |
I can't fault any part of the writing in this book. The characters are haunting, the writing beautiful, but it's a rather strange story. Strange how? I'm not sure I can explain it. The only reason I didn't give a full five stars is because the ending was kind of disappointing for me. I like a full resolution in a novel-length story. Shorts or flash fiction, I don't mind a bit of ambiguity, but I like more of a payoff for reading more than 100 pages. This felt...not quite over. Perhaps that was his intention. As a reader, it fell flat for me.

However, I'm eager to read another book by Rankin. As I said, the writing is beautiful. I fell into the style and voice almost immediately. It was like wrapping up in a favorite old blanket or sinking your feet into a perfectly worn-in pair of shoes. I haven't felt that immediate comfort with an author's writing in a long time.

Do I recommend this book? Yes and no. I'm betting if you start with a later novel, you'll be blown away. This is one of his first published works if what I've read is correct.

Anyway, I have another waiting for me right now, so I'll just dive in again. ( )
  ReneeMiller | Feb 25, 2016 |
With echoes of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD and Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES mixed with just a hint of a Michael Bay blockbuster thrown in to keep the story moving, THE FLOOD by Davis Sachs is a gripping disaster story that leaves a profound impact on the reader.

THE FLOOD marries an intelligent literary sensibility with taut storytelling. It introduces a variety of unique characters, all well-drawn and interesting, and places them on a derelict cruise ship, cut off from whatever is left of society after a tsunami of biblical proportions wipes out the entire east coast of the United States. Parallels to the flood mythology shared by all ancient cultures are not lost on Sachs who wisely places a professor aboard the Festival of the Winds cruise ship, giving him an able lens through which to place his narrative in a wider philosophical and historical context. A welcome and necessary grounding in what might otherwise be nothing more than a story about carnage.

Rather, this is a book about ideas dressed up as a thriller. Yes, the story grimly embraces the darkest parts of the human experience. Murder, mayhem, savagery and barbarism—all are present here, along with some visceral thrills and brilliant set pieces. However, these are all tableaus; Sachs deploys them with great skill, but the heart of this story is an exploration of the darkest parts of the human experience in a way that manages to transcend almost everything else in the genre, excepting the aforementioned McCarthy. Sachs paints with stark lines and a monochrome pallet of human suffering, but his strokes are deft and true. There’s a heart in this disaster story. Love as well. Not the sloppy Hollywood variety, but the real, meaningful, moving sort.

I read once that authors don’t often write of the intensity of parental love because it scares them. Also because it scares their readers. THE ROAD and THE FLOOD are two novels that tread these dangerous waters and manage to keep their heads afloat. Parts of THE FLOOD are painful to read; doubly so if one happens to be a parent of a young child. However, the narrative thread that prevents THE FLOOD from becoming merely another grim tale of death and dying is that of the extreme, imperfect, and achingly beautiful love of a single man for a single boy. It’s gripping stuff, if you can handle it. THE FLOOD isn’t a book to be taken lightly. It is, however, eminently readable. The prose sings. The dialog has the natural move and flow of real conversion.

Don’t come to THE FLOOD to have your regard for the human race restored. Do come with the expectation that you will be asked to look at yourself and society at large with a critical eye. To ask yourself just how far are you really from straying off the civilized path. How close are you to the great precipice, internal or external? In a society overwhelmed with zombie story clones that address these same questions with all the subtlety of a chainsaw, Sachs has managed to provide a deft, meaningful exploration worthy of a careful reading.

A hearty 5 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of THE FLOOD in exchange for this review. I received no other form of compensation. ( )
  nmbeauchamp | May 26, 2015 |
I love reading first novels. They are usually the ones the author has toiled on for years, honed, sent out with the biggest chunk of the Writer's heart. Ian Rankin's first novel "the Flood" is well worth a read. In this reprinting, issued after the author's phenomenal success as a mystery writer, you can see the bones of the confident author to come.
It's a story of prejudice and secrets and moods and not truly a mystery (but whoever said mystery writers can only write mysteries?), but more a tale of the evils men and women do in a small town. It starts off slowly, but I couldn't put it down right away and I got sucked in more and more as I read. Rankin's world is dark, with little redemption. Characters survive.
But it's all completely lovely and will stay with me a long time, destined for my collection of first novels. Read it. It will give you a view of how it all began. ( )
  Dabble58 | May 26, 2014 |

This is the first book Ian Rankin wrote. There isn't really a mystery here - it's just a story of adolescence and twisted family dynamics in small-town Fife, with both long-buried and more recent sexual secrets taking their toll on those who have to keep them. I actually found the resolution a bit too easy, but the rest of it shows a great story-teller in the making. ( )
  nwhyte | Oct 28, 2013 |
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Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it.
 - Song of Songs
All one's inventions are true.
- Flaubert
For my father and mother
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When Mary Miller was ten years old and not yet a witch, and Carsden was still a thriving mining village, she would watch her brother Tom playing football in the park with his friends.
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"Mary Miller has always been an outcast. She is the mother of a bastard son Sandy, and caught up in a faltering affair with the local schoolteacher. Both mother and son are graduallly forced to come to terms with the past and a dark secret from Mary's childhood." -- BOOK JACKET… (more)

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