I’ve read several books by Clare Morrall with clever and interesting plots, so was pleased to find a copy of When the Floods Came.
The story is set in Birmingham in England sometime in the near future, however the future has not turned out to be as we would hope. Climate change has caused the weather to swing violently with England experiencing torrential rain and devastating floods. To further complicate life, twenty years before the story began a virus called Hoffman’s wiped out most of the population and left most survivors infertile.
The main character is twenty-two year old Roza Polanski, who with her family, lived on their own in a housing tower complex which previously housed thousands of people. The Polanski family consisted of Roza’ mother and father, her brother Boris, sister Delphine and adopted little sister Lucia, who was found alone after her parents seemingly died in a flood several years before the story began. The Polanski family rarely met anyone else in person, but Roza and Boris worked online for the Chinese (it wasn’t clear what their work actually was) and all of the older children had strong online social connections. When the story began, Roza was preparing to meet Hector, a man from Brighton whom she had met online and planned to marry. Most of England’s population lived in Brighton as it was the only place in England that had been made flood-proof.
I was fascinated to read how Roza’s family used items foraged from other apartments for their own needs, had chickens and a goat living on the tower’s roof and harvested vegetables from nearby farms which were run by machines. Several times a year they received food and other items from drone drops from the Americans. Roza’s father was particularly handy and spent much of his time creating art and repairing the machinery which maintained their lives throughout the cycles of intense heat, cold, rain and floods.
During a family game where the Polanski’s raced through the entire housing tower they were shocked to find a young man living in an apartment. Although Aashay hadn’t been there long the Polanski family felt frightened and angry because they hadn’t been aware of his presence, and they were horrified to learn he had been watching them and knew a lot about them. Despite Aashay’s charm, Roza and her family were suspicious of his intentions towards them. Most people who had survived Hoffman’s lived in Brighton under strict government rules, but it was clear that Aashay lived outside of the rules. While the Polanski’s were also living outside of Brighton it was because the government were allowing them this freedom, with the understanding that when the children turned twenty-five they would move to Brighton where they would marry and have children to ensure the continuation of the human race.
Roza’s family had been quarantined and forbidden from visiting nearby Birmingham or anywhere else since Hoffman’s had struck twenty years previously, but despite these places having been being abandoned and destroyed they still weren’t allowed to visit them, however soon after Aashay’s arrival Roza surreptitiously travelled to Birmingham to visit the Museum and Art Gallery where she discovered Sir Jacob Epstein’s statue of Lucifer in the water damaged building.
At this point, I stopped reading and went online to see Lucifer and the round, domed gallery for myself. By this point the story was so real to me that I felt relieved to see that the gallery and art works were undamaged.
Aashay told the Polanski’s about an upcoming fair in a town nearby they were amazed to learn that so many other people lived outside Brighton, and they decided to attend. On arrival they felt overwhelmed by the vast crowd of approximately 100 people and found the noise they made to be deafening. The children received such an inordinate amount of attention that the family were terrified someone would kidnap Lucia to fulfil a yearning for a child of their own.
When the Floods Came had a Garden of Eden-type of plot, in that the story began with an innocent family living in paradise before the arrival of the serpent and an ending featuring the changes which came with knowledge. I enjoyed the story enormously but felt let down by the ending which felt unresolved. I was also left wondering what was happening in the rest of the world. I had the same problem with The Roundabout Man in that I loved the idea and the plot but ultimately wanted more from the story and the ending.