The Week at World's End by Emma Carroll
|The Week at World's End by Emma Carroll|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A full saga that encourages political engagement and activism amongst the young, but only once you've had a taste of intrigue courtesy of a secretive young woman and the end of the world.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: September 2021|
|Publisher: Faber & Faber|
|External links: Author's website|
First, the title. We're in World's End Close, a mediocre set of houses, where Stevie (Vie to her friends) finds fun only with the family dog and with the boy over the road. But we could also be at World's End, because something taking a great chunk of the fun away is the fact that the Cuban Missile Crisis is kicking off. The Soviet boats are getting blockaded as America tries to reduce the risk of nuclear missiles offshore, and not much else is able to make the news. That said, Vie has news of her own – Anna, a secretive young woman hiding in their coal shed. Anna has, in no short time, taken a strong interest in the American airforce base behind the Close, said she'd locate something she wanted and leave, failed to leave, and implied her life was at risk. But surely this bit of intrigue has got nothing to do with what the Cold War is doing miles away?
There is a strong sub-genre of young reads concerning the body in the shed. Skellig by David Almond is the modern classic, but Whistle Down the Wind also comes to mind. They act as lessons as to how difficult it is to keep a secret; the fact the respective Magwitches never can get more than a small supply of provisions shows the youngster concerned powerless in an adult world – and they seem to have a timeless knack at providing mystery. And there's mystery here, too, not least for those of us old enough to know a bit about the Cuban Crisis, and trying to work out how the heck Vie and Anna could be connected to it all.
In a way I think that adult knowledge I had of it all (no, I wasn't around when it happened you cheeky gubber!), added frissons to the book that the young reader, unaware of how close Armageddon was, might not get in the same way. I was relishing the way things would be contrived to fit the political situation that nearly became World War Three – that is, at least, until I realised this isn't a book about Cuba, Kennedy, Khrushchev or anything else like that. It's a book about protesting for peace in general, about cooperation, and about diplomacy. It's a story that ultimately shows the value in days off school for climate change, for realising the power of one's voice, and for not letting that voice drown out someone's indecision.
As a result I did find it a bit woolly at times – touching heavily on MLK, Rosa Parks et al, for the historical example they all form. It can get a touch baggy with ideas and topics, and the more that crop up the fewer mystery elements survived – to the extent I was way ahead of the curve where Anna's truth and why she was on these pages was concerned. Now, to put myself into the mindset of the intended reader, I think this will still be a stunning success. I see them as perhaps more forgiving of the jumbled amount of themes, heartily satisfied with a narrative that brings the end of the world on and a happy ending besides, and talks to their appetite for social campaigning, freedom of speech, liberty and justice et al. I as an adult reader had invested too much in making of the premise a book that this could never actually be, and was a shade disappointed as a result. Rein in your expectations of a thriller, and this will still act as a page-turner of some note.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The way these teenaged characters got to show us the early 1960s brought to mind Frozen In Time by Ali Sparkes, which has the 1950s meet the modern day. Evidently, we'd also recommend anything else by Emma Carroll, including my only prior encounter with her work – the dyslexia-friendly The Ghost Garden.
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