Book review: The End We Start From

Dear friends,

I read this one for a book club.  I probably wouldn’t have chosen it for myself, and it was one of the stranger books I’ve read recently:


This short novel is a dystopian tale that combines / contrasts motherhood with environmental catastrophe – so, a beginning and ending juxtaposed against one another.  London is overtaken by floodwaters, so a young couple are forced to flee the city with their newborn baby boy.  They head north, to stay with relatives, but soon discover that a lot of other “refugees” are fleeing north as well.  Supplies are limited, and they must decide whether and how to move on and seek a new place to live and bring up their son.

We see this world through the mother’s eyes, and especially in her relationship to her child.  Even when their situation is dire, her child looks at the world with trust and wonder, and the mother realizes that no matter what happens, she must try to live for her child.  Thus, the child represents a new world emerging from the old, and hope rising out of despair.

The writing style is very sparse – passing impressions, sentences, “blurbs,” observations.  You’ll find mixed reviews online; some people find it beautiful and poetic, whereas others lament the lack of dialogue and character development.  I’ve seen it called “startlingly beautiful” and “gripping,” as well as “boring” and a “chore” to read, despite its short length (150 or so pages).

So, it’s a matter of personal taste.  If you enjoy using your imagination to fill in the blanks of what a character is like, or what their motives are, you might find this novel compelling.  If you prefer that the author fleshes out the story in full, you may be frustrated by its brevity and lack of detail.  Either way, it’s a short read and likely to make you think!


Winnie and the Professor


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