The End of the World is Bigger Than Love, by Davina Bell
Wow. This book left me breathless with the sheer scope and depth and beauty of it. It is a powerful and emotive read set in a dystopian world on a remote island, and is narrated by identical twins Summer and Winter.
Without giving away any spoilers, here are the reasons why I loved this book:
1. Originality. The premise for this book is so original. We have twins – Summer and Winter – living on a remote island in a world of catastrophic climate change. Into their sheltered world we then have the arrival of an enigmatic half-wild boy/bear, who throws things into disarray. I loved the sprinkling of magical realism throughout, also adding to the surreal totally unique vibe of this book (which also happens to feature a talking whale. So cool.)
2. The narrative voice: the story is told from the alternating perspectives of the twins, and I loved their contrasting voices. It was Summer’s voice that really stood out for me –it is raw, bitingly funny, and completely compelling as she relays her feelings of loss and love. She is full of light and courage and colourful imagination, contrasting with her sister’s more reflective voice that is edged with darkness and secrets. The conversational style is an intimate form of telling story. Both Summer and Winter are unreliable narrators which only adds to their air of mystery. It quickly becomes clear that Summer has constructed her own version of reality for both her and Winter. It is the twin’s voices that urge the reader to keep on reading, as we attempt to try to unravel truth from lies.
3. The references to classic literature. I absolutely loved that the twins read their absent mother’s collection of classic literature over and over, and the frequent references to these books which were woven throughout the narrative. I also love that these book references shine a light on the way in which literature can provide endless comfort, escape from reality, and can also clarify things in our own lives as we relate to and empathise with the characters in the books. (Now I want to go and read The Outsiders, as frequently refenced by Summer who loved Ponyboy).
4. The sheer beauty of the writing. There is almost a hypnotic beauty to the writing; each scene is carefully crafted – you will feel compelled to re-read passages so that you can savour the rich description and use of metaphors. There is a dream-like quality to the writing which is almost swoon-worthy (it was for me at least. I frequently wished I could write like this. So so beautiful).
5. The character development: the arrival of Edward disrupts the carefully constructed veneer of calm that the twins have created for themselves – and in doing so we witness how Summer and Winter both change and grow. Edward keeps us guessing – is he a boy (as seen by Winter?) or a bear (as seen by Summer?) In any case – what matters is that he represents different things to both girls – for Winter he is viewed as someone who will protect her, allow her to become more courageous, to shine and be her true self. Whereas Summer’s initial affection for Edward gives way to jealousy and paranoia as she views him as someone she can’t trust and who has not only stolen her sister’s affection, but who may end up hurting Winter. This is when we as readers see the dynamic between the twins start to change.
6. Mikie, the talking whale: Mikie is one of my favourite characters in this book. He is gently philosophical, wise and full of laconic humour. You will love him too. Trust me.
There is so much in this book to process – I can see how it would make a perfect buddy read, classroom study text or book club choice. There are multiple themes to dissect, and it would be fascinating to hear the different interpretations and understandings of events in the story.
I think this novel can be perceived in various ways and each reader will bring their own unique interpretation and understanding to the text based on their own experiences. We are left with some unanswered questions but I feel that this was the intention of the novel – to make us think, question, reflect.
This is a lyrical story of environmental catastrophe, of dealing with trauma and loss, of betrayal and escape, of love and survival, and of an ultimate sacrifice that will give you goosebumps.
Published by Text Publishing