by Megan Hunter
I chose to read this book largely because I sort of know the author. She was a house-mate of my deceased son Ben in Brighton, twelve or so years ago. Since Ben’s death I have kept in vague contact with Megan via Facebook – enough to know that she had written and then published this book.
Then I saw the book prominently displayed at the Liskeard Bookshop which I go to whenever I am visiting my aunt Wendy. The book seemed to shout “buy me” and so I did.
The first thing to note is that this is a short book, with short phrases, paragraphs and chapters. Without reading the bio, it seemed to me that the author must be a poet – and indeed she is. There is a poetry lifting off every page of her sparse but poignant prose. (At this point, as an aside, I should perhaps note that although none of the posts on this blog relate to poetry, I do in fact love to read it, so perhaps I should ‘review’ some of my favourite poems/poets/volumes of poetry here too.)
All the characters in this story are named with a unique letter – apart from the narrator, who is not named at all. Somehow this is not confusing but actually serves to engage the reader in the personalities of the characters, even the babies, without being distracted by any connotations their names might suggest. The story is of a cataclysmic event – a serious flood – that upsets the country (we assume England) and neighbouring countries just at the moment that our narrator gives birth to her first child. Her story is one of new motherhood, with all its excitement, delights and fears. Somehow the backdrop of a huge and terrifying disaster, with the attendant disintegration of society and displacement of huge numbers of people, is secondary to the real and immediate tasks of motherhood. Any parent can surely relate to the descriptions of childbirth, breastfeeding and teething – all sparsely told and yet immediately recognisable. Baby Z is not remarkable, and he is not put on a pedestal, even by his mother. He simply is, and her job is to care for him no matter what circumstances she may find herself in. She finds friendship – indeed almost everyone in this story behaves honourably in a crisis – but loses her partner, whom she then sets out to find.
The story closes with Z’s first steps, and a reunion of sorts.
Thank you Megan – a brilliant debut. I wish you all the success you deserve, in your family as well as your literary life.