Thursday, 19 February 2015

Guest Book Review: Antonia Honeywell - The Ship

Reviewed by Emma Crowley



Oxford Street burned for three weeks. The British Museum is occupied by ragtag survivors. The Regent's Park camps have been bombed. The Nazareth Act has come into force. If you can't produce your identity card, you don't exist. 

Lalla, sixteen, has grown up sheltered from the new reality by her visionary father, Michael Paul. But now the chaos has reached their doorstep. Michael has promised to save them. His escape route is a ship big enough to save five hundred 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? 


Amazon links: Kindle or Hardcover

The Ship is the debut novel from Antonia Honeywell and has the honour of being chosen as the first read for the Curtis Brown Book group. I will readily admit this is not my usual genre and I would not have read this only I was lucky enough to have been accepted for the book group. Marketed as a dystopian meets utopia novel this was a book which would not normally appear as a review book on Sharon’s blog but she was kind enough to let me review this one. I had read somewhere that this was aimed at the young adult genre but that it could work as a crossover. Having now finished the book I really don’t think it’s for young adults, yes a lot of the themes are relevant to the young people of today as what we are doing now to the environment will affect their futures. But this wasn’t a light read and I think there are so many levels and deeper meanings that a lot of it would go over the heads of the young adult genre.

Set in London sometime in the future, things are not as we now know them to be. Oxford Street has burnt, the British Museum is inhabited by people who don’t have the required registration card that means you will get food drops and not be hounded by soldiers. All the treasures from the museum have disappeared, milk comes in cardboard containers  if people can get it. Africa has burnt, Antarctica is gone and Europe has flooded. Michael, Anna and Lalla living in London are some of the lucky ones with registration cards as Michael helped the government by selling them a unique idea called the Dove which earned them respect and a somewhat easier life compared to others. Yes the family struggle day to day and 16 year old Lalla does not know the joys of writing on paper with a pen or pencil, books are also a rare commodity. Basically everything we take for granted to day is gone. But Michael is determined and earnest in his aim to provide a different life for Lalla and Anna and sets about creating The Ship to escape the horrors of the world – to create a utopia in a world of chaos and danger.

Right from the very first page Antonia Honeywell has you thinking and wondering about the world we live in now and how our actions could have such dire consequences for future generations. Imagine the government killing innocent people just to keep the population down so they can feed certain people. Not having the freedom to travel and walk about as you want. Not knowing what the countryside is like or fresh foods -no apples on trees, no bees. I just couldn’t even begin to think about this even though we are told about what harm we are doing to our world but I feel people just think it won’t be in our lifetime but we have to remember our decedents may experience the effects of what we are doing now.

So much happens so quickly in the beginning and you are being bombarded with information that it is hard to absorb it all. Some of the information given was sketchy and just filled in a bit of the background and I wanted and needed to know more to make the present situation clear.  When we get to the ship it slows down a bit and I did find Lalla very irritating, her relationship with her father changed instead of getting stronger she seemed more distant from him. I really wanted her to wake herself up and ask the questions that needed answering or else become more aware of what other people on the ship were trying to tell her. At first the ship was a form of freedom to me like a modern day Noah’s Ark but it soon becomes apparent her father is different now that he is in charge and has full control. 

The book is filled with tension the entire way through the story, there is an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia even before they begin their voyage on the ship and this strained, uneasy atmosphere didn’t make for an easy or enjoyable  read. I felt I couldn’t just read along and take the book for what it was. There was a lot of thinking to be done and to discover the deeper meanings behind things. I kept reading because I wanted to know where the ship was going and what they would do when they got there. There were lots of questions I had about the ship and its contents and inhabitants. Yes, we got some backstory from several characters but not enough and I felt the love interest of Tom for Lalla wasn’t genuine and slightly rushed and as for the ending well all I’ll say is I was disappointed.

The Ship may not have been for me it provided more answers than questions and I know I should be more open to this but I’m the kind of person who likes to know the reason behind everything. On a positive note it is worth reading if only to get you pondering the deeper questions surrounding environmental issues and what we are doing to our planet and to explore the consequences of how one man can control everything and what it is like to go against the grain and question what you have been spoon fed. I’m glad I did make it the whole way through and the Curtis Brown Book Group has opened my eyes to a new genre, I took a dip in but unfortunately it was just a bit too cold to want to venture further but I look forward to what the team at the book group bring me for their next choice.

Many thanks to the Curtis Brown Book Group for sending me this to review and for allowing me to take part in the online discussion with Antonia Honeywell.

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