Not Forgetting the Whale, by John Ironmonger
This is my “go to” book when someone asks for a good read. It’s light and lively, a good tale, with a back story that dives deeper than the whale.
Apparently there are three, three letter words that can bring down civilisation.
War. Oil. Flu.
Not Forgetting the Whale, by John Ironmonger, tells the story of Joe, a young, clever analyst who uses modelling to predict the coming of the third – a flu with the destructive force of a plague, capable of disrupting the world and tipping us into apocolypse.
It’s pretty big stuff for a story set in a little town in Cornwall, with nicely recognisable characters, networks of romance and relationships, and a visiting whale (cue book club discussions on symbolism, metaphor and allegory).
In the growing disaster as the fragile connections that underpin our world collapse, the town becomes an Ark as Joe and the locals close the borders and struggle to survive.
Joe’s modelling predicts that if Oil, War or Flu should bring us down, total collapse is inevitable. But his clever computer, which analyses economics, supply chains, political activity and journalist reporting world wide, has missed the human factor.
Give this book to the pessimists in your life.
The Wish Child – by Catherine Chidgey
If you’d asked me what I thought of Catherine Chidley’s The Wish Child as I was reading, I might have been slightly ambivalent. The writing is poetical and descriptive but I had to concentrate to hear the different voices of the characters – Eric, an adopted boy from Poland, Sieglinde from Berlin and a third, unexplained, narrator.
But ask me now I’ve put the book down and and I’ll say: here is a book that needs to be read. The story and the confusion over the shadowy narrator is a slap in the face that haunts me.
The story is set in Germany during WW2 and told through the everyday lives of Sieglinde and Eric’s families. The fact that Sieglinde’s father is employed to cut words like “love” and “truth” out of books is just one strange part of the slowly twisting background of their world. The is an horrific and violent event – and I guess brutality is a byline of every war story – but I felt this was slightly gratuitous. It feels raw and clumsy in the otherwise gauzy read – maybe that is quite deliberate, but I almost put the book down there.
I’m glad I didn’t, because the poignancy of ending made me go back and read the whole thing again, immediately.