The End We Start From – Megan Hunter (Hamish Hamilton, 2017)
I wasn’t sure about reading this short novella, about a woman who has a baby as London is flooded and she is forced to flee her home, while at home with my own newborn baby. The good news is the book is not disturbing or upsetting. The bad news is it’s not much of anything.
There’s a very particular style that Hunter is using here and it doesn’t work for me. The whole book is so vague that it read like the outline of a novel that had yet to be written. There’s no dialogue, all of the characters are identified only by letters (a pet peeve of mine), and it seems like an exercise in defying the “show, don’t tell” rule. It’s all tell, no show.
The narrator and her husband R have become first time parents to Z. At the same time, unprecedented flooding hits London and they are forced to evacuate. They move in with R’s parents, N and G, and there are apparently food shortages and riots but the narrator and Z mostly just hang out at home. Then something happens and G is gone and then later something else happens and N is gone too. Seriously, that’s about as much information as we’re provided with.
From there, this little family spends time in a refugee camp and R leaves after a while because he can’t be, like, hemmed in, man and he has to be free. Or something like that. It’s hard to tell how much our narrator really cares.The story has zero character development and even though what’s being described is traumatic, the stakes are so low and I just cared so little because I felt like I couldn’t visualize what was taking place and I didn’t care about these characters.
The book is short (I read it in two late night nursing sessions) so not much of a time commitment. To be fair, there are glimmers of potential when Hunter actually bothers to describe things but it’s hard to say if there is much more there. I couldn’t tell you whether or not Hunter is good at creating characters or tension because none of it is present.