Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean (2004)
There's a lot of talk these daysabout global warming and the inevitable consequences - rising sea levels, unpredictable weather patterns, storms and floods. And this re-telling of the Noah's Ark Bible Story fits in well with the general theme and gives us a lot to think about.
For a start, Noah and his family may have been personally picked by God to survive the Great Flood and repopulate the planet, but that doesn't stopthem from bickering amongst themselves for forty days and forty nights. Well, I'm calling it bickering, but it does involve at least two attempted murders within the family circle, so it's pretty wild behaviour. Noah, of course, is gloriously aloof, but the rest of the family get on each others' nerves.
And what else would you expect? These poor people are sealed up inside a leaky, dark, noisome, pitching ark, along with all manner of ill-kept animals. They are traumatised by the recent loss of all their friends and neighbours in the Deluge. And they struggle to survive as their food stocks run low. Not to mention the unattractive task of tending all those animals down below - what with the feeding and the shovelling... As survival stories go, it sounds quite realistic to me. These people don't strike me as Chosen for their godliness so much as for their ordinariness.
And actually, it's worse than that:
Hands were clinging to the hull, the hands of swimmers who had somehow managed to find a grip on the rough timber. Ham was in a frenzy, rolling like a drunkard from end to end of the deck yelling, 'Get off! Get off! Leave go! It's too late, I told you! It's your own fault!'
Fearless, implacable as ever, Shem swung out from the ship's rail by one hand, wielding his stave, dislodging people from the hull in the same way you might swat horseflies off the flanks of your horse. With his hair plastered flat to his skull, he looked like a skeleton, and the everlasting sheet lightning turned his face bone-white.
Now, what manner of people are these, the family of Noah? Who would actively push a drowning person away from a lifeboat that still had room aboard to spare? And if they believe they are carrying out God's will, what manner of God do these people have?
See what you think. It was enough to drive me to despair.
What can I read next?
Whatever the subject matter, Geraldine McCaughrean's stories are always powerful. If you would like to look at some more of her work have a look at these:
If you would like to read someone else's thoughts on a flooded world, you might like to look at thisexcellent bookby Julie Bertagna. She doesn't rate mankind's humanity very highly either:
Or there is this much briefer story by Marcus Sedgwick, set in a drowned East Anglia:
Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:
- The Pack by Tom Pow (Score: 89%)
- Mondays Are Red by Nicola Morgan (Score: 86%)
- Pictures in the Dark by Gillian Cross (Score: 86%)
- The Fire-Eaters by David Almond (Score: 86%)
- Why the Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo (Score: 86%)
Not the End of the World features in these lists: