Saturday 24 January 2015

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell ** Curtis Brown Book Group **

Oxford Street burned for three weeks. The British Museum is occupied by ragtag survivors. The Regent's Park camps have been bombed. The Nazareth Act has come into force. If you can't produce your identity card, you don't exist.
Lalla, sixteen, has grown up sheltered from the new reality by her visionary father, Michael Paul. But now the chaos has reached their doorstep. Michael has promised to save them. His escape route is a ship big enough to save five hundred people. But only the worthy will be chosen.
Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla's unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want?

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell is published in hardback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Orion Publishing) on 19 February 2015, and is the author's debut novel.

At the end of last year I was delighted to be invited to join the Curtis Brown Book Group. The Ship was chosen as the first book for members to read, we will have the chance to ask the author some questions about The Ship at the first online discussion next week.

Here's some more information about Curtis Brown and the Book Group:

Curtis Brown Literary Agency is a literary and talent agency, founded in 1899 by Albert Curtis Brown.An American journalist who was the London correspondent for The New York Press, Albert was instrumental in establishing the reputations of  British and American writers, including John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Lawrence Durrell, AA Milne and Kingsley Amis. These days we represent authors such as Margaret Atwood, Rosamund Lupton, Malala Yousafzai, Jojo Moyes, Winston Churchill, Marian Keyes, John le CarrĂ©, David Mitchell and David Nicholls, to name but a few. In March 2013 we joined with leading literary agency, Conville & Walsh.Together we have always been committed to finding the very best new literary talent, and this is where the Curtis Brown Book Group comes in. Every month our  readers will be sent a selection of our new books to review, and will be invited to take part in an exclusive online book group session with the author. 

Our planet is over-crowded and under-resourced. Parts of London have burnt, parts are under water. Whilst the inhabitants of London may exist in body, the most important thing in  their lives is their card - without it, they are nobody, and have nothing.

People are homeless and hungry. People live in tents in city parks, or sleep in the Museum. Occasionally, those in charge carry out a cull of the population. London is full of desperate and dispossessed people, food is scarce, and usually comes in tins.

Lalage, or Lalla as she is known as has led a fairly comfortable life in comparison to most. Her father, Michael is an important man, rarely at home and has good links with the rulers, and her mother has ensured that she has food and clean water. The family have been able to keep their comfortable flat in central London, Lalla has a bed, and clothes.  However, Lalla has no friends, she only has conversations with her parents. She and her mother visit the British Museum daily, she watches as the exhibits gradually disappear, she and her mother try their best to listen to and help the homeless who have set up camp in the Museum.

For a very long time, Lalla has listened to her father talk of his plans for a Ship. His Ship will take his family, and five hundred other carefully chosen people away to a better place. Finally, the time has come to board the Ship. Shocking events just before their planned departure changes everything for Lalla, she starts the journey in despair, struggling to come to terms with her loss, and yet hoping against hope that there really will be somewhere better over the horizon.

Lalla is vulnerable, innocent and confused. As a character, she is multi-layered, she feels alone despite being surrounded by five hundred other people, all with the same dream. Lalla becomes increasingly concerned. Why does nobody answer her questions?  Why does she seem to be the only person on board who has any questions? Where is the Ship heading to?

Antonia Honeywell takes her readers upon the Ship's voyage, accompanying Lalla through one hundred and fifty days on board. I'm not going to talk any more about the plot here as that would just spoil the reading experience for everyone else, and I'd really urge people to read this one.

The Ship is set in the future, I'm not sure when it is, but there are definitely elements of that future world that are already with us. This story made me think deeply about what is happening on our beautiful earth, about human beings and their behaviour and about myself. I'd like to think that I know what choices I would make if I were in Lalla's place, but lets face it, who really knows what they would do?

Despite Lalla's weaknesses, and yes she's very irritating at times, I was behind her all of the way. Her young, enquiring mind made her character both believable and likeable. Her gradual realisation about those closest to her, and their true motives was carefully written and at times, quite emotionally charged.

Antonia Honeywell is an exciting new talent. The Ship is original and quite brilliant. It is terrifying at times, the reality, the possibility, the way that it makes you think. The author explores many themes during the story, not least the question of how far we would go to survive.

Antonia Honeywell studied English at Manchester University and worked at the Natural History and Victoria and Albert Museums in London, running creative writing workshops and education programmes for children, before training as a teacher.

During her ten years teaching English, drama and film studies, she wrote a musical, and a play which was performed at the Edinburgh Festival.

Antonia was one of the stars of Curtis Brown's inaugural creative writing course. She has four young children and lives in Buckinghamshire.  The Ship is her first novel.

For more information about the author, visit her website

Follow her on Twitter @antonia_writes

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1 comment:

  1. Hmm sounds intriguing I want to know where the ship IS headed