Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Clare Morrall’

When the Floods Came by Clare Morrall

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.

The Last of the Greenwoods by Clare Morrall

The Last of the Greenwoods is by English writer Clare Morrall. I have previously read The Roundabout Man by this author and although I thought that story promised more than it delivered, the idea was clever and stayed in my head.

The Last of the Greenwoods also had an intriguing plot.

The Last of the Greenwoods follows several main characters whose lives become entwined. The first story is that of Zohra, a young woman who worked as a postal deliverer in Bromsgrove. Zohra had been a brilliant student but wasn’t living up to her potential because of a traumatic event that affected her as a teenager.

When Zohra delivered a letter addressed to Nick and Johnny Greenwood, two elderly brothers who lived in two old train carriages hidden in a paddock just out of Bromsgrove, the character’s lives became connected.

The letter was purportedly from their sister Debs, who Nick and Johnny believed had been murdered over fifty years ago. Debs’ letter told them she has been in Canada since she disappeared and that she was planning to visit them. The brothers lives were thrown into turmoil.

Debs arrived and although the brothers welcomed her, they were suspicious that she was in fact Debs’ best friend Bev, who had disappeared at the same time as Debs did.

Meanwhile, Zohra’s friend Crispin, who was restoring an old railway line was keen to buy Nick and Johnny’s home to use the train carriages with a steam engine he had bought to use on the railway line.

I loved reading about how the train carriages had been turned into a home and about Crispin’s group of train buffs, who worked to restore the line and the engine.

The story eventually foisted each of the characters into situations that caused them to confront and overcome their problems. The story could have been pruned to remove a few characters and events which I thought were unnecessary and padded but on the whole I enjoyed The Last of the Greenwoods, which had a feel-good feel to it.

The Roundabout Man by Clare Morrall

roundbo

The intriguing title of The Roundabout Man by Clare Morrall was the reason I chose to read this book. The actual ‘Roundabout Man’ of the story is a man named Quinn , who lives in a caravan in the middle of a traffic roundabout. The roundabout is so big that, Quinn’s caravan is hidden from the passing traffic by trees and bushes.

Quinn, who is in his 60’s, has lived without money, foraging for food from traveller’s leftovers at a nearby service station and asking strangers at a local laundromat to wash his clothes with their loads for many years.

Quinn was the child of a famous author, whose books for children were on a par with Enid Blyton’s popularity. He and his sisters were neglected emotionally by their mother, who was happier living in the world of the stories she created. Unfortunately though for Quinn and his sisters, who were triplets, the characters in their mother’s books were based on them, and Quinn and his sisters struggled during their childhood to create identities of their own.

Quinn’s peaceful life at the roundabout came to an end when a young journalist writes a story about his life, after he was mugged and left with serious injuries by a group of teenagers who had read about Quinn in a newspaper.

Happily, the staff from the nearby service station took care of Quinn during his recuperation. He got to know their stories, and shared his own, although most people didn’t believe, at least at first, that he was the real Quinn from the famous stories. Eventually Quinn faced his emotional issues and in doing so, re-entered the world of people.

As I child, I would have quite liked to have been Enid Blyton’s child, and had adventures with the Famous Five, or midnight feasts at boarding school with the children in The Naughtiest Girl in the School or run away with Fenella and the others from Mr Galliano’s Circus. I suspect that Enid Blyton’s children would have happily changed places with me though, and enjoyed having their mother all to themselves.

The idea of living on a roundabout in relative peace and quiet is also strangely appealing, and I enjoyed reading about Quinn’s childhood, but I kept expecting more to happen in the story than what actually did. I am half-heartedly recommending The Roundabout Man because the idea is clever, and because of my fondness for Enid Blyton’s stories, but wanted more from the book and wouldn’t be surprised to learn other readers felt the same.

 

Tag Cloud