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One morning our protagonist awakens to a world in which she appears to be the sole living human inhabitant. A mysterious transparent wall has been erected around a large area in the Austrian mountains where our narrator has been holidaying, a wall that is unbreakable and through which she can see that the world outside has come to a complete standstill. Our narrator is faced with living in total isolation and forced to learn how to survive.

The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Steve Shayler
Reviewed by Steve Shayler
Summary: Separated from the dead outside world by a huge transparent wall we experience the life of the last living human. This story is about a woman learning new skills and coping with being in control of her own life and those of the animals now in her care.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 216 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Quartet Books
ISBN: 978-0704373112

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The lady telling the tale never gives her name and we only learn that she is nothing special, around forty years old and lives in the city; she is not meant to be cut out for the lifestyle that is now forced upon her. This is a rustic survivalist lifestyle and she takes on the added challenge of supporting some animals that happen to be trapped within the wall with her. The book is written as her account of her life since waking up to find the wall and she looks back at her own diary entries and attempts to tell the whole story up to the present. She regularly changes from writing in the present to the past and it is a technique that gives us hints about what is to come and adds more interest to the story.

Generally this is a very well written book with a narrator who feels realistic with great emotional depth and it is quite absorbing to experience her development throughout the story. She becomes adept at many skills needed for survival and seems empowered by her new role in life. The lady serves as a prime example of the adaptability of humans. That being said it can be a pretty monotonous tale that after the initial shock of the wall becomes an account of everyday life living in the mountains with all its routines.

Routines and caring for her animals become the most important aspects of the character's life and they are her way of not dwelling on the fate of the world. The story consists largely of the character's attempt to grow food, chop wood and take care of her animals and although we can see that she does this for more than just survival but also for her own sanity, it is quite repetitive and does eventually become a bit tedious at times. After the initial world changing moment this becomes quite an uneventful story with very little plot which caries the reader along with its charm and endearing relationships. The protagonist’s interaction with the animals she cares for is touching and her warmth towards them is infectious; these relationships, the character herself and the descriptive prose about the scenery are what carry this book.

Marlen Haushofer has crafted a situation for her character that then allows the story to be almost a contemplation of what is important in life. We experience the lady’s struggles with loneliness and coming to terms with the fact that her life before has not prepared her for what she now has to deal with. When she becomes more capable we share her thoughts about the world and what is now important to her and perhaps always should have been.

I can’t imagine that there is another book about the end of humanity that is anywhere near as homely and at times idyllic as this. The tale has a very strange quality to it due to this and ceases to be a story about the end of the world but more about coming to terms with nature and living off the land. The Wall is an interesting and well written story that is not at all what I expected and for me it is a story that seemed to fall a little flat. There's a lot to like, with a rural way of life described well and in an appealing way, but it didn’t particularly grip me although I’m sure people who like a laid back read would enjoy it a lot more.

For a completely different take on a similar situation try the hugely influential I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. We also have a review of Haushofer's Nowhere Ending Sky.

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Buy The Wall by Marlen Haushofer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wall by Marlen Haushofer at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Wall by Marlen Haushofer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wall by Marlen Haushofer at


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