I first heard of Antonia Honeywell via the Curtis Brown Creative newsletter in an article describing her path to publication. Her description of life juggling work, writing and family sounded just like mine, so I warmed to her immediately. And it was wonderfully encouraging to hear how her place on a Curtis Brown writing course had led her to be signed by the renowned agent Jonny Geller.
Since then, I’ve got to know Antonia on twitter, and she was kind enough to back ‘Echo Hall’ just after we first connected. So I was keen to return the favour and give her debut novel ‘The Ship’ a plug.
‘The Ship’ has been described as a YA adult novel, but I think it fits perfectly well under adult fiction myself. It tells the story of a young girl, Lalla, who is living in a dystopian future where only citizens with papers can access decent resources. As the daughter of a former government official, Lalla lives a privileged existence in a secure flat with food and bottled water, whilst others are forced to camp at the British Museum or parks, scrabbling to survive.
As the years past, the situation becomes more desperate and the government more despotic. Fortunately, Lalla’s father, Michael, has been making preparations, and the family are able to escape in a large cruise ship with five hundred others. At first, it seems a blessed relief to be away from the oppressive mainland, in a ship stocked with enough goods and food to last two hundred years. But soon, Lalla is questioning her father’s behaviour, watching in horror as her fellow passengers begin to act like members of a brainwashed cult.
‘The Ship’ is a well written and thought provoking novel, with a lead character who is initially self-indulgent and spoilt, but gradually grows up and learns what it means to take personal responsibility. The story is a compelling one that raises a number of interesting questions. What does it mean to be privileged in an unequal world? What happens to a society if you take away all threat and danger? Is it better to live a life that is safe but authoritarian,or one that is free and filled with risk?
This is another one to put on your Christmas list, particularly if you like fiction that makes you think. I also highly recommend Antonia’s blog where she is currently posting equally thoughtful Advent reflections each day. Well worth a look.