Originally published: May 2017
Author: Megan Hunter
Published by: Picador
Length: 129 pages
Reading dates: 26 October 2018
A short fragmented book that explores motherhood at a time in a near dystopian future, where Britain is hit by disastrous floods, caused we assume, by global warming. None of the characters have names and are simply known by letters. The narrator and her husband R, give birth to their first child Z, just as London descends in chaos as flood waters start to rise and they have to flee. First they travel to R’s parents and stay for a while hoping to settle but things become unsafe so they flee to Scotland, living in their car until Z becomes unwell and ends up in hospital. The narrator insists they find a refugee camp, and while she and Z gradually make friends with other mothers and babies, R dislikes being in close proximity to others and leaves, promising to be back in a week.
Told over the time period of Z’s first year, through his mother’s eyes, we see the messiness of birth and early motherhood.
Every morning when I wake up the sheets are wet. I have wet myself from my breasts.
Against all the odds, we also see Z develop in a normal baby boy learning to smile, then laugh and crawl, eat food to thrive and grow. This is a story of survival.
This is a short book and it is a quick read, the paragraphs being short and a little sparse, almost a little like verse. There is no dialogue which really makes you feel you are living exactly what the narrator is experiencing. I really thought the author’s description of the birth and early motherhood were excellent and I liked that the story was about motherhood and survival rather than the flood and how or why it happened. Even with the subject matter (natural disaster and early motherhood) it is not a very emotional book despite the events that happen and the narrator sometimes feels a little distant. I quite like the lack of description (which other reviewers have described as a negative). Quite a lot of what is happening is vaguely alluded to but I didn’t mind this. I would recommend this interesting and unusual debut and look forward to reading Hunter’s next book.
The film rights have been brought by Benedict Cumberbatch’s SunnyMarch production company who called it ‘a stunning tale of motherhood’.
About the author:
Megan Hunter was born in Manchester in 1984, and now lives in Cambridge with her young family. She has a BA in English Literature from Sussex University, and an MPhil in English Literature: Criticism and Culture from Jesus College, Cambridge. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and she was a finalist for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award with her short story ‘Selfing’.