Saturday 6 April 2019

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter   
As her waters break, the water rises. London is flooding and a young mother is about to give birth. Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From is a mesmerising and poetic novel in the vein of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, yet it is quieter and more illuminating. Sparse and brilliant sentences and thought pieces punctuate the pages, each word vital and necessary. Hunter has taken a journey and laid bare its essence and emotional pinpoints. We only know the family through the eyes of the mother - she is ever present in our consciousness - and those around her are known by their capital letter only, R (her partner), Z (her child), R’s parents N & G. Each moment is a struggle. Leaving London, finding safe roads, arriving in the countryside to the short-lived refuge at N &G’s home. Food and supplies are running out, and a visit to the nearest town brings only disaster. And the waters continue to rise, sending people further north across borders and into foreign territory, to refugee camps where conditions are far from ideal but camaraderie is useful for a new mother and her babe. Hunter looks us in the eye and, through her characters, contemplates the choices that people make in a crisis, the alliances they build despite fear and mistrust, the risks they will take to survive as well as the psychological patterns that play out - behaviours that defy rationality but express an innate necessity for self-determination. When R leaves the camp intent on finding better solutions, he is as much running away as he is securing his sanity. The need to be alone and uncrowded by humanity is paramount. Our narrator moves herself onward, determined to find safety and tranquility for herself and her child despite the danger of permanently losing contact with R. She hopes she is leaving enough clues - even when those clues are little more than stating her existence to herself and the broken landscape around her. This is a world that doesn’t stretch too far from reality - climate will (and does already) alter how we live on the earth and we will increasingly see the movement of people due to extreme weather. This novella could be described as Cli-fi (Climate science fiction), but at its nub it is a book about love and connection, about how humanity endures and what we can overcome even when it alters us irrevocably. At the start of the book, Hunter has chosen to quote from T.S.Eliot:
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.

This leads you into the first chapters and from there you will not want to leave until you get to the end - the new beginning. Hunter’s language is evocative, and her observations prescient. Delicate, precise and memorable, this is a novella to be immersed in.

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