Title: The Ship
Author: Antonia Honeywell
Opens: …Right up to the day we boarded, I wondered whether the ship was just a myth…
Blurb: Welcome to London, but not as you know it today. Oxford Street burned for three weeks. The British Museum is squatted by ragtag survivors. The Regent’s Park camps have been bombed. The Nazareth Act has come into force – if you can’t immediately produce your identity card, you will be shot.
Lalla, 16, has grown up sheltered from this new reality by her parents. But now the chaos has reached their doorstep. Her father has promised Lalla and her mother that they will escape. Escape is a ship big enough to save 500 people. But only the worthy will be chosen. Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla’s unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want?
My Thoughts: The narrator of THE SHIP is Lalla, who is an interesting character. At 16 she is part child, part woman, and still formulating her outlook on life, a life that she quickly realises she knows nothing about. She comes over at times as a spoilt brat and utterly self-centred, which is not surprising as she has been the sole focus of her parents for 16 years – protected from the horrors of a disintegrating society for most of that time. Now she is of an age where she can no longer be protected from the reality of life. While she lives in a clean flat in central London with a bed and clothes and protection from the elements and access to what little food there is available; others live rough. Homeless and hungry, dispossessed people and refugees living in the streets, abandoned buildings and parks of London are often culled by the ruling party. Culling means parks being bombed; street dwellers shot and buildings being sealed and all those squatting inside being gassed to death. There is no place to go – the land has been poisoned, the climate change has resulted in large parts of the world flooding and super viruses whipping out millions of people.
But Lalla’s father has a plan. He has stocked a ship, an ark if you will, to save his family and 500 other people and sail to a better place. As THE SHIP opens, the time has come to get on the ship. Lalla’s mother is still reluctant to up roots and go even though society is falling apart however as they are in the flat arguing a shot rings out and Lalla’s mum goes down. Now they have to go to the ship as that is where there is medical help. After a dramatic departure the ship sets sail and Lalla watches her mother die.
“…The woman and the doctor stood quietly by, and when he fell back, they caught him and led him away, supporting him on either side. I longed to call out, to go with them. But my mother was dead; I had made her death a painful one. And so I hid, unable to move, unable to cry out to the doctor who thought I’d killed her, or to the father who had, however briefly, forgotten me…”
Lalla has to go through her morning period and author Antonia Honeywell must have experienced great loss to perfectly recreate a teen who has reached the end of her tether. Gradually though she starts to take an interest in what is happening around her – and with the interest comes the questions. Just what is her father up to? Despite being on a ship with 500 other people, and a young man who is interested in her as a girlfriend, Lalla is lonely and confused. She gradually understands that all of the others have been to hell and back – suffered as she didn’t think people could suffer – but she still resents them being there and almost worshiping her father as he becomes increasingly messianic almost. As she hears the stories of those who have been through these horrors her compassionate side is revealed and she has a big heart and wants to help everyone. Even those who have not been chosen to join the ship.
Her father encourages everyone to not hang onto the past, he becomes their son, their father, their children, and their future. But what is the future going to be, and how can he expect Lalla to forget her mother? As she learns about what has happened in the rest of the world, Lalla starts to believes that there can be no future. And the dreams she has when her mother speaks to her only compound her overwhelming feelings of hopelessness – why does no one on the ship seem worried about where they are going – what the future is going to bring?
I really, really enjoyed this story. THE SHIP is a brilliant concept and though Honeywell’s glimpse of the future is quite terrifyingly real (as there are hints already around the globe that it can happen the way she foresees) it is also thought provoking and it is not too late to start lobbying to change the direction of our world. In the end the focus of the story is how far would you go to survive? THE SHIP is a debut novel and I for one will be keeping an eye out for more from this author.
For more about the author – Click Here
B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.
With thanks to Hachette Australia and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.