The One With the Appraisal (Warning: Contains Spoilers.)

Just another pretentious word used to avoid using the common, cliche word. Aka ‘review’. Yes I can be arty farty like that.

So what am I reviewing?

The Girl With All the Gifts.

M. R. Carey.

WARNING: Contains spoilers. Do NOT proceed if you are unwilling to read spoilers. You have been duly notified. Enter at your own risk.

A girl. A teacher. A soldier. A scientist. Lots of Hungries. And a world so familiar, yet so devastatingly foreign, consumed by the tendrils of mycelial doom.

Does she have all the gifts? Yes indeed, for in her mind the secrets of this apocalyptic universe stay hidden, stagnant, waiting to be unlocked.

Readers, I struggled against myself to buy this book. I had a tottering pile of books in my arms already, my change was running out, it had started to rain. But the pros were shoved circumstantially in my face. It was ever so cheap. And the lady who wanted to get rid of it was enthusiastic that I would enjoy it, despite clearly seeing a ‘Little Men’ and a ‘What Katy Did Next’ wedged firmly in the crooks of my arms.

The bright yellow cover and scarlet inner cover were plastered over with short, sweet, compelling little sentences, little nudges, like a babble of eager voices clamouring for me to take a big, fleshy bite out of this so-called universal wonder.

IF YOU READ ONE NOVEL THIS YEAR, MAKE SURE IT’S THIS ONE.

And

TAKES HOLD OF YOU AND DOESN’T LET GO.

And

AS FRESH AS IT IS TERRIFYING.

Which, I am pleased to say, it was.

Naturally curious, I decided to buy it, and read it. I read it across the Channel, rocking to and fro in a tight little cabin. I poured over it whilst waiting in queues, drinking coffee, travelling on coaches until finally, slumped over a crisp hotel bed, my husband complaining about the clothes I bundled up and threw into the wardrobe in my eagerness to get back to the story, I turned the last page.

But the page turner ended with an anti-climax. I don’t know why. I should have expected the ending, because really what else could have happened?

Truth is, I was awaiting a monstrous, thunderous ending. One which would leave my soul shattered, my heart in pieces on the ground, crunching beneath the literary feet of this magnificent work of art.

The writing was quick-paced, enticing. When I began the story, I knew as much as the child protagonist did. I learnt with her. Which I thought was a brilliant way to go about world building. We do not learn of the apocalypse until the point of view shifts from the child to the adults.

It appeared to be the same old ‘zombie apocalypse’ situation that has taken over entertainment media by a storm, from TV series like ‘The Walking Dead’ to video games like ‘Resident Evil’. Dead people, chasing living people for their flesh.

The only difference was that M.R. Carey decided to give a plausible, believable reason for this illogical feeding frenzy. I won’t go into specifics because SPOILERS but I thought the explanations were remarkably on point and actually interesting enough to keep me invested and ‘hungry’ for more.

The world building was solid, vivid. The dilapidated ruin of roads and buildings, left untouched for two decades, the emaciated, frightening appearance of the hungries, their mechanical, inhuman feeding patterns, the way humans had to tiptoe past them because they only responded to sensory interruptions, a mechanism used by the pathogen inhibiting their brains to zero in on its prey; the absolute chaos of the world, the junkers, the makeshift city, fungal takeover.

I suppose the reason why I felt dissatisfied by the ending was because there seemed to be so many threads left dangling! Who are these junkers? What happened to the junkers on their trail? What happened to all the junkers anyway? Why didn’t we get to see Beacon? Why had the communication stopped? What happened to Charlie? How was Rosie abandoned really? Was everybody dead? What happened in the future? Was Miss Justineau really going to be resigned to that meagre job for the rest of her life?

I recommend this book, readers, I do. I just think there could have been more.

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In Which I Talk About Books

Good morning, fair maidens and noble gentlemen.

I went to a car boot sale on the Sunday morning past. I have never been to a car boot sale before, this is my first time. I must say I was rather excited. I was just thinking of all the books stored in people’s attics that they have no use for anymore (GOODNESS knows why!).

It was scheduled to rain, but people had their spreads out in rows; long aisles of cars and the unwanted clutter of pasts and long bygones spread out in front of them, while heavy clouds gathered above.

“It’s going to rain”, the sellers said to each other over steaming cups of tea, as buyers milled around their piles of junk, “Awf’lly gloomeh today”, their Leicester accents sticking out a mile.

But oh, there were some remarkable people there. People with boxes of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. I don’t know why they would want to sell off such beauties, but I was glad for it.

Here are the titles I deemed fit to buy:

  1. First and foremost, What Katy Did Next, by Susan Coolidge. I have read this book, and I own it too, butI don’t own THIS beautiful old red hardback! The publication date isn’t specified at all, but it’s certainly around 1940-1950, and has the old, slightly musty, most delicious bookish smell that is only reserved for really old books. At the cost of 25p. That is a quarter of a pound, which is 38 cents in American dollars. How’s that, eh?
  2. Next I found, amid tremendous heart palpitations and small breathless squeals of excitement, Little Men by L.M. Alcott. It is the third book to follow Little Women and I have been looking for a beautiful old copy for YEARS, and to finally have it, at the grand price of 20 pence, is to be in pure bliss. Inscribed on the inside cover in large, sprawling handwriting is this: Joyce Pallenden, 15 Estcourt Rd, South Norwood, CHRISTMAS 1948. How endearing. How alluring. Somebody got this for Christmas in London two years after the end of the second world war. What was her life like? How old was she? Is she still alive, even?
  3. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. I haven’t read this book yet, but I am anxious to sink my teeth into it because I have watched the film (yes, I know, NEVER watch the film before reading the book..) and I found the story so fascinating and haunting.
  4. Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, Jenny Colgan. I love baking. The author mentioned that she was inspired by The Great British Bakeoff, and I ADORE the Bakeoff, so I reckoned that, at the price of 20p, this was the book for me.
  5. My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You, by Louisa Young. Saw this last year when I was meandering about in Dublin, and I have wanted it since. 25p. What a bargain.
  6. The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey. 50p. Guys, the man who sold it to me said nice things about my growing pile of books, and offered to give me a bag to hold them all. He even commented on my choice of books, saying how his daughter loves What Katy Did. Then his wife spoke up and told me that the book I was looking at was a wonderful read, and how she thoroughly enjoyed it, and they seemed like such a bookish little family so of course I couldn’t resist. Okay? OKAY? Completely justified.
  7. Last, but not least, The Dubliners, by James Joyce. 50p. A Penguin Classic edition. I couldn’t believe my luck! “Look!” I exclaimed to my sister in law, who had been all this time patiently following me around on my book frenzy, “I need this for my course, and they told me I had to spend £7.99 on it!”. She didn’t exhibit any interest, apart from a raise of the eyebrows and an exaggerated ‘wooowwww’, followed by a smile. “Go for it then”, she said. So I did. “Good luck with your course”, the lady selling it to me said, ever so kindly, handing me my change. How sweet was that?

So those are my books, and this was my haul. I hope you enjoyed it. I might feel inclined to post a review or two here after I have devoured my precious finds. I do so love finding well-loved childhood classics to keep at home, don’t you?

H