Wreckers by Julie Hearn
|Wreckers by Julie Hearn|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: A dramatic and thrilling tale, bringing old myths into a near-contemporary setting. Dreadful and wonderful things happen when Pandora's Box is opened . . . for the second time.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: March 2011|
|Publisher: Oxford University Press|
The story of Pandora, whose actions are the cause of all the ills in our world, is well-known. As Julie Hearn has one of her characters say, men remember it because they feel better if they can blame her, and that other female villain, Eve, for all their woes and crimes. But supposing Hope wasn't the last thing in that plain wooden box? What if something else, something slow and ugly and steeped in evil, skulked in the shadows right at the bottom? And what if someone today lifted the lid, as Pandora did, and allowed that last, terrible evil to escape?
The today of this book isn't exactly the world as we know it. A few years before the story opens there is a catastrophic event, referred to as The Attack. London is bombed and completely destroyed in an instant, along with all its people and buildings, and since then Britain has closed its borders to all foreigners. For most people in this country, little or nothing is known of the world beyond the seas, and memories of a time when one could travel easily and meet new people are fading. What is more, pollution has come close to destroying the whole planet, and although we would find many familiar features in the Cornish village where Dilly and her companions live, the contrasts are stark. There is electricity, but not much, and it has to be eked out. Travel is difficult, and only council officials have access to any kind of motorised vehicle. The king rules with a firm hand, insisting on attendance at church, outlawing alcohol for young people, and using whippings and beheadings as punishments. The fact that there is television, of a sort, and that a few fabulously rich people have brick-sized mobile phones, only serves to underline the differences between this world and that of the reader.
The story is told for the most part by five friends, who have lived their whole lives in the shadow of The Attack and know no other life. They have been friends since babyhood, and know everything about each other, joking and laughing about incidents from their shared potty-training and early schooling as they wander about the cliffs and the shoreline. It can't have been an easy task to create five distinctive voices for them, and the fact that Julie Hearn does it so skilfully must surely be one of the reasons she has been nominated and short-listed for several industry awards including the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian prize. A sixth voice, tantalising and mysterious, functions like a Greek chorus, addressing the reader directly, commenting wryly on events as they unfurl and adding titbits of information about people and events outside the village. The youngsters are on the verge of adolescence, young enough not to cause their parents any anxiety when they to go camping together, but beginning to experience the first soft stirrings of desire. Four of them are still very young, innocent and romantic in their views, and the book could be read without discomfort by older pre-teens. There is in fact very little reference to sex, except when recounting the silly and embarrassing antics of the mother of one of the five, and the sad belief her daughter cherishes that offering herself to a film star will bring her fame and fortune. The 'teens' rating was given in the end, after a lot of thought, because of the maturity required in the reader to understand the depth and complexity of the problems which will be caused by the last creature to leave Pandora's box.
This is a beautiful book, which creates a whole world and makes its inhabitants seem as real and believable as our neighbours. It has moments of thrill and danger, incidents straight from the ancient myths, and even something approaching horror, but it is so well grounded by the down-to-earth daily life of the villagers that all this seems possible and perfectly normal. This is a book people will talk about, and it is bound to feature on shortlists for awards. Don't miss it.
Many thanks to Oxford University Press for sending this excellent book to Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: Another book by Julie Hearn which Bookbag loved is Rowan the Strange. Other ancient tales revisited in a contemporary setting are The Owl Service by Alan Garner, and Skellig by David Almond.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Wreckers by Julie Hearn at Amazon.com.
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