Paul's Reviews > The End We Start From

The End We Start From by Megan  Hunter
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really liked it
bookshelves: dystopia

3.5 stars rounded up
This is a novella which can easily be read in one sitting; sparse would be a good way of describing it. The little paragraphs are rarely more than one or two sentences and they are well spaced out. The novel is dystopian and relates to an environmental disaster in the very near future involving water, lots of it. It illustrates how quickly our comfortable lifestyles and communities can disintegrate. It is narrated by an unnamed and heavily pregnant woman. All the other characters are referred to be initials. Her partner is R and the baby when he arrives, Z. There are some similarities with The Road as the family have to leave their home because of flooding and move to higher ground. The narrator is quite reflective about the situation:
“Home is another word that has lost itself. I try to make it into something, to wrap its sounds around a shape. All I get is the opening of my mouth and its closing, the way my lips press together at the end. Home.”
This is also a reflection on motherhood as much of the interaction is between the narrator and Z:
“This is how his body curls: like a shrimp, like a spring, like a tiny human yet to straighten out “
This is as much a prose poem as a novel and the review in The Independent makes this point:
“This isn’t a novel in which exposition is a problem; it’s more Virginia Woolf does cli-fi, impressions of a scene rather than detailed depiction”
Cli-fi is not a term I was familiar with, but I suspect it won’t be the last time I hear it! I am less sure about the Woolf comparison, although I see the point stylistically:
“After the flood, the fire. I am losing the story. I am forgetting.”
However for me it doesn’t have the depth and solidity of Woolf. There is a sense of movement though as the narrator moves from London and ends up on a remote Scottish island and then back to London again as the waters settle. R disappears on some vague quest about halfway and the focus centres even more on the mother/baby relationship:
“Z is real, with his tiny cat skull and sweet-smelling crap. The news is rushing by. It is easy to ignore.”
We follow Z through his first year, movements, steps, crawls and so on.
Inserted into the text are brief italicized sentences. These are based on various creation myths:
“The first one’s bones were made of branches, his blood of rivers, his eyes of moons, his spirit of fire.”
“The otherworld will be beneath the ocean, forty thousand fathoms below. In that place there will be no pain, nor death, nor mourning.”
Those two were picked at random. I think they are meant to act as counterpoints to the destruction, but they tended to blend into the whole. This was interesting but ultimately the insubstantialness of it meant there was a lack of potency. The film rights have already been sold, so I wonder if the visualization of it will add to the power. Nevertheless it was interesting, especially for the reflections on motherhood rather than the dystopia.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 25, 2018 – Shelved
November 25, 2018 – Shelved as: dystopia
November 25, 2018 – Finished Reading

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