By Antonia Honeywell
Available in Hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming
Antonia Honeywell's debut novel, The Ship is a powerful, and striking dystopian story which reminded me of The Handmaid's Tale and Children of Men. This book questions the power of wealth, and the power of the past and the way it has a hold over our present lives.
No identity card means you don't exist.
London's streets burn.
The homeless and unregistered citizens live inside the British Museum.
The city's parks have been bombed.
However, our young narrator, Lalla, sixteen, and her family are the lucky ones. Honeywell has created a world which could easily be our own. The divide between rich and poor is expanding at an alarming rate. Lalla is kept wrapped in cotton wool away from the starving families, and riots happening around her. Her father, Michael has made money from supplying the government with tablets to keep track of the citizens by passing out information to people with identity cards to survive. Michael has been using the money for his escape plan - a ship to sail them away.
The riots outside their flat are alarming - time has come for them to move to the ship. Once a pipe-dream is now a reality. Once on board, the lucky applicants, Lalla and her father fall into a calm rhythm with plenty of food and entertainment. The ship is a garden of Eden, floating way from the corruption of the city.
Honeywell builds up the tension and claustrophobic atmosphere so the reader also feels like Lalla. This paradise, floating around the sea has everything she would ever need - a wedding dress packed away in the store cupboard, a cot for a future baby, a young man to be a future husband.
Yet, Lalla's unease grows - there is something wrong under the surface of smiles and politeness. Her life was prescribed for her in London and it's the same on the boat. She can not connect with the other passengers, and even her father seems to have a slight dictator-style to the way he rules the ship. She needs to escape. She needs to save the people trapped in London yet nobody is bothered. The other passengers seem too happy to worry about the past.
Lalla is marmite type of character - some will like her curious, rebellious and strong nature but other readers may find the moaning just a tad irritating. Lalla is an unreliable character, and it is for the reader to decide if they believe her version of the story or the story which lingers between the lines.
The Ship is a smart coming-of-age novel full of tension and twists. You can purchase The Ship from your favourite bookshop.
I am currently a member of the Curtis Brown Book club, and The Ship was the first book. You can read more about the book club here.
I was kindly sent a copy by Curtis Brown.