After the Flood by L S Matthews
|After the Flood by L S Matthews|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A beautiful fable set in a post-fossil fuel Britain. It combines a slightly dystopian future existence with a story of a precious relationship. Beautifully told with an elegant but piercing simplicity.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: July 2008|
|Publisher: Hodder Children's Books|
Jack lives in a world deeply affected by climate change. The weather is increasingly unpredictable and floods are commonplace. Cars are no more. People travel little. Goods are delivered by horse and cart. Rural children no longer get a proper education as they can't make it into towns to school. They're taught instead by a kind of Dad's Army of volunteers and achievement is patchy to say the least. Tea, sugar, coffee, chocolate - they're all treats. But life goes on.
Jack and his parents are escapees from a particularly devastating flood. They've come to the country to forge a new life for themselves as market gardeners. Jack is quite a solitary boy and his poor literacy skills make even new Dad's Army schools daunting for him. The new boy is often picked on, and the new boy who can't read or write even more so. So Jack stays away from school as often as he can and strikes up a friendship with Michael, his next door neighbour, who's in a wheelchair recovering from a bad bout of flu.
Jack and Michael find a shared purpose when they hatch a plan to rescue a wild young horse from slaughter. But it's not going to be easy...
I loved, loved, loved After the Flood. It's simply written, with the flavour of fable about it, so it's approachable by fairly young children. If they enjoy Michael Morpurgo, they'll enjoy this book. It has the same story-telling feel. Yet, as a forty-something, fairly jaded reader, its honest simplicity appealed greatly to me. I'd recommend any adult read it as much as I'd recommend any child.
The narrative follows Jack and Michael as they try to save Van from slaughter by training him up to harness. In this energy-starved, space-starved world, horses aren't allowed if they aren't working horses and it's the only way to get Van the necessary permit. It's also the story of a precious and blossoming friendship in which each partner blesses the other with help, support and self-knowledge. At the outset, it seems crippled, isolated Michael has more to gain from a friendship with Jack but gradually the balanced is reversed.
It's also a wise and interesting look at what the world might be like after the oil has gone. In some ways, Matthews paints quite a frightening picture of a Britain without game consoles, cars and supermarkets. But in many ways, life is much the same. Children argue with other children. Adults try to keep up with the Joneses. And in some ways, perhaps, life is actually better. Little pleasures seem precious. Life is more grounded somehow.
There's a twist at the end. Adult readers will probably see it coming, but I don't think the children will. It's likely to make both cry though; it certainly did me. After the Flood is a lovely book, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
My thanks to the nice people at Hodder for sending the book.
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