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Another way of looking at The Flood

nottheendoftheworldA book like this makes a reader awed at our species’ amazing capacity to weave narrative fable, connecting events through patterns, giving them the shape of a story.

Geraldine McCaughrean has taken one such narrative Geraldine McCaughreenfable, Noah’s flood, and told a different, darker, more imaginatively real version of what this might have been like.

Just as Grimm’s fairy stories were prettified by Perrault, and Angela Carter unlayered a darker version of those stories, it is as if the Biblical version of those two by two animals and the sainted little family of Noah was an airbrushed story, without much real gristle and sinew, and McCaughrean has really imagined inside this story, and given a version which feels both more mythical and more true.

Seen mainly through the eyes of a young daughter of Noah (funny that, as so often the 525px-Michelangelo,_Deluge_04Bible, written by men, neglects to record the females who were part of history and part of myth) this is textured and thoughtful, gruesome and funny. What might it have been like, all those two by two lions, worms, antelope, woodlice and dungbeetles cooped up together with a fanatical fundamentalist family believing itself to be the ones worthy of salvation, in a stinking hold of a ship? Did the sons who sorted the two by twos have the skills to ensure a male and a female of each – how DO you sex a tortoise? Think far less the nursery brightly coloured wooden two by two animals, clean and shiny, think of lice, fleas, blowflies et al. And less the sainted white bearded patriarch and his fine strapping named sons, Shem Ham and Japhet (and who were they to people the new world with, pray, why their wives, no more named than those two by two dungbeetles!), think more crazy end of world salvationists, Jonestown and the like.

448px-Noah_mosaicMcCaughrean is a childrens’ writer, and this is a book for children. But like the best writers for children, she possesses a truthfulness in her understanding of, and memory of childhood. Most of us, as adults, forget how astonishingly thoughtful, truth-questing, pragmatic and imaginative childhood can be. Adults prettify the Grimm for their children. The best writers for children are also writing without patronising their readers, and what is suitable for the on-the-verge-of-puberty and beyond child, will also be suitable for an adult. Food here for thought for both child and adult.
Not The End Of The World Amazon UK
Not The End Of The World Amazon USA

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