Tuesday, November 08, 2016

When The Floods Came - Clare Morall

 Book Review
When the Floods Came
Clare Morrall
Sceptre Books Aug 2016

Sent to me by Sceptre Books in exchange for an honest review

Book Info: Fiction, Paperback, 352pp

Buy/Read Now (links): Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads

Rating: 4/5

Audience: Those who are looking for a less intense post apocalyptic novel which focuses on rebuilding rather than destruction.

Summed up in a few words: Family. Protection. Risk. Suspicion.

First Impressions: This is the first 'end of the world as we know it' novel I have read that in my opinion more focuses on the rebuilding and continuity of humanity. I enjoyed the fact that this book is not all doom and gloom, it is a more hopeful scenario of what would happen if 99.9% of the worlds population was wiped out by a virus and humanity is beginning to rebuild society. It is not without its horrors though!

Author Bio: Clare Morrall's first novel, Astonishing Splashes Of Colour, was published in 2003 and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize that year. She has since published the novels Natural Flights of the Human Mind, The Language of Others, The Man Who Disappeared, which was a TV Book Club Summer Read in 2010, The Roundabout Man and After the Bombing. Born in Exeter, Clare Morrall now lives in Birmingham. She works as a music teacher, and has two daughters.

Book Synopsis: At twenty-two, Roza Polanski has never met anyone her own age. She lives with her family in an empty tower block outside Birmingham, isolated ever since a virus ravaged the population and most survivors fled to Brighton. Yet food is plentiful, she's used to the annual floods and is connected online with the outside world. And she's about to meet her fiancé, who is cycling hard up the weed-covered M40 towards her. 

Then a stranger appears out of nowhere - a magnetic young man who challenges everything Roza though she knew. He seems genuine, but can he be trusted?

My Thoughts: Story/Plot/Narration: Humanity was almost wiped out when the Hoffman virus ravaged the earth, taking 99.9% of the population with it. The people who were lucky enough to be immune or to survive the virus are slowly rebuilding civilisation. The world is an empty shell of its former self, but it is still ticking over. Machines built before the virus give people an almost endless supply of fresh food, the internet is still working so the survivors are connected, they share resources and work on building the future. Unfortunately the virus wiped out most of the children and left a majority of the surviving population infertile. This makes children a rarity and therefore a luxury which most are desperate to surround themselves with.

The Polanskis are a surviving family living in near isolation in their little bubble (well huge tower block) in Birmingham in the U.K. Popi, Moth, Roza, Delphine, Boris and Lucia all a happy family, letting life tick over until Roza's fiancé Hector arrives to take her and the family to the now 'capital city' of Brighton. Life is good, food and work are in good supply and the family band together to keep each other safe. This paradise is disrupted when a stranger named Aashay turns up out of the blue, telling stories, influencing each of the family members and filling everyone's heads with dreams. The Polanskis are taken on a journey that will challenge everything they believed about the new world and not for the better.

In When the Floods Came, we follow the story from Roza's perspective. 22 and ready to be married, Roza's easy and hopeful life is muddied when Aashay enters her life, spinning yarns and telling everyone that life 'out there' is so much better for everyone. Anxiety levels in the family are already at full capacity due to the fact that children are almost non-existent and the Polanskis have a 7 year old Lucia to think about when there is constant talk of kidnappings and desperation for contact with the remaining youth. This anxiety is maintained throughout the story and it is one of the remarkable elements to this story. Clare Morrall creates such a hopeful version of a struggling humanity and then drops this sinister, creepy and desperate underlying atmosphere into the mix and it has its moments.

This was a great book, the development of the story and the characters was strong, there was plenty of depth and detail about this 'shadow of a world that once was' and what is being done to continue onward. I found this book to be a refreshing take on a popular fictional scenario. I found it difficult to pin-point a genre for this book, there are elements of action, thriller, post-apocalypse, family and mystery all combined together to produce When the Floods Came. I was amazed by the hopefulness that Clare Morrall threaded through this book, which was constantly skewed by the presence of Aashay.

Aashay is one of the stand out characters in this book. He is so mysterious, frustrating, inspiring and sinister, no one could ever trust him but they always found themselves believing in what he has to say. The members of the Polanski family each have their own presence but I only really appreciated them as a unit, I found each of them on an individual level to be under-developed. 

As a family I was excited and impressed to see them fight off every challenge that came their way. Roza for me was just a tad too temperamental and rebellious, I appreciate rebellion in certain forms don't get me wrong, but wanting to do something immediately just because someone says not to, is to me, just immature. Roza is torn between to versions of herself, family Roza and the free Roza, so it is difficult at times to predict the outcome of her decisions which adds an element of risk/thrills.

I have gone on quite a bit in this review so I shall start to wrap up. There are some incredibly difficult themes in this book that involve deaths of children and panic for their safety. It is difficult at times but this scenario is there to unite the family against potential threats. Clare Morrall is so talented at world building, using relatable geography and experiences to bring the reader right into the warm embrace of the Polanski family and gives them a front seat in an inspiring version of a post apocalyptic scenario. 

My favourite element of this book is the fact that Clare Morrall put so much thought into her characters and the world that they occupy and the story flowed so well and I found myself not rushing to the end (even though I had to look ahead occasionally out of panic, we all do it :D) and I finished the book satisfied and hoping for a sequel, please..?

Overall Opinion: Overall, I definitely recommend this book to those looking for a fresh perspective on the 'end of the world' scenario. It has been done many times before but I enjoyed Clare Morrall's take on it and I will be looking out for more of her work in the future.

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