Book review: The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

14 Mar

the shipWelcome to London, but not as you know it. Oxford Street burned for three weeks; Regent’s Park has been bombed; the British Museum is occupied by those with nowhere else to go.

Lalla has grown up sheltered from the chaos, but now she’s sixteen, her father decides it’s time to use their escape route – a ship big enough to save five hundred people. Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla’s unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want? What is the price of salvation?

The Ship is exactly my kind of book. It’s a futuristic, post-apocalyptic mystery, written beautifully and is scarily believable. Antonia Honeywell has focussed her story on our world at an undefined point in its future. More specifically, Lalla, the heroine of the story lives in London and I loved the fact that this was a very British dystopian future.

I was fascinated as the occupants of The Ship discussed their memories of the past and what made this novel so striking to me was the ease and logic with which I could see that Antonia had created her future world. A world where everyone is required to register regularly, carry a card to prove their identity at any given moment and be constantly hooked up to their ‘screen’ for news bulletins, regulated reading material or to communicate with others. As the story unwound I found the small details that Antonia slipped in about the fate of our world where the land and energy stores have depleted, a military state rules all and those without a connection to the internet are outcast and officially do not exist, absolutely captivating and shocking.

The Ship is a beautifully written story and easily readable. Narrated from Lalla’s perspective, each chapter comes with a set of sub headings that explain what happens in it; “A New World – I Choose to Live – The boy with the green eyes” and I found this a clever device for grabbing my attention and holding it as the book progressed – a promise of what was to come at the start of each episode. As the action moved from London to the ship that Lalla’s father has created, these chapter headings became even more important and I had to stop myself jumping ahead to look for hints of what was to come!

The Ship poses the intriguing question of what the ideal life is? As Lalla and her chosen fellow travellers settle into their new home there is an immense feeling of positivity and joy about the richess of the ship but as the days sail by, Lalla questions more and more about her new existence and I was as curious as Lalla to find out where the ship is going and what would happen next. Lalla is just sixteen years old but has a wise and questioning head on her shoulders; her refusal to let go of the past and move forward creates an ever increasing tension as the book progresses and had me gripped.

As the ship’s occupants rediscover food, hobbies and luxuries that they thought long gone, Lalla experiences a compelling coming of age including first love. As much a novel about growing up as about what it means to be happy, there’s a huge amount of material for debate in The Ship, not least the ending which has me wishing for a follow up at some point in the future. I’d highly recommend this book for young adult as well as adult readers and I’m very much looking forward to Antonia’s next book.

5/5

The Ship is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Antonia Honeywell and her writing at: http://www.antoniahoneywell.com/

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