Book reviews, Fantasy/sci fi, Literary fiction

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The End We Start From might be a petite novella but it’s certainly not short on blistering prose and thought-provoking narrative.

What’s it all about?

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z’s small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds.

This is a story of new motherhood in a terrifying setting: a familiar world made dangerous and unstable, its people forced to become refugees.

You can read a longer extract from the book here.

What’s good about it?

The End We Start From is a stunning book.

First, its style is unique and powerful. Hunter uses staccato-sharp prose to punctuate the page, giving just enough detail to shape the narrative while leaving the reader to connect the dots. Her sharp verse acts as a mirror that reflects the reader’s beliefs and perceptions.

With this book, Hunter has proven herself to be an accomplished writer who can stir up raw emotion in the shortest of phrases. She’s a poet who can write prose and a writer who can compose poetry; it’s a unique gift.

The End We Start From is occupied with fertility. It explores the biological absurdities of reproduction, and the destructive effects of societies that value women only on their ability to procreate. In the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale, it considers the mechanics of motherhood and the industrialisation of women’s bodies to create and sustain life. The shock of new motherhood runs through the book as the narrator comes to terms with her recent responsibilities while dealing with the physical aftermath of birth.

There is a constant sense that something sinister is at play in this book but you never quite know what. Characters are identified only by letters and we don’t fully know what has occurred to cause the chaos or, indeed, who continues to encourage it. Hunter reveals very little but creates extremely vivid scenes at the same time, building a hugely compelling and disorientating narrative.

What’s not so good about it?

The untraditional format and structure of The End We Start From won’t be for everyone, and I imagine many readers will be put off by the brevity and sharpness of the prose. However, the overall tone of the book is very strong and Hunter is adept at creating an all-consuming narrative that provides a massively entertaining read.

The End We Start From is out now in hardback from Picador.

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