Friday 10 July 2020

The End of the World is Bigger Than Love

The End of the World is Bigger Than Love by Davina Bell, (Text), 2020, RRP $24.00 pb  ISBN: 9781922268822

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

This intriguing YA novel combines unreliable narrators with magic realism. Davina Bell creates a world in which reality and fantasy join hands and dance together. It’s a challenging, yet satisfying, read.

The world has become a place of terror, public executions and climate disaster. Identical twin sisters, Summer and Winter, live in isolation on a remote island. Years ago their father brought them there. He was a scientist, responsible, among other things, for The Greying, an illnesss that ultimately kills.

Summer is the more hip, talkative sister with a well-developed sense of humour. Winter is quieter and kinder. The girls grow into teenagers, surviving in their own intense reality, eating through a stockpile of tinned food, reading and re-reading their mother’s favourite books. Fictional characters fulfil their need for friends. The words of characters in To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Outsiders and The Power of One are quoted and requoted.

Then a mysterious stranger, Edward, appears, disrupting the girls’ carefully constructed world. Summer only refers to him as ‘the bear’. Winter falls in love.

Alternating chapters written by Summer and Winter draw the reader into a fantastical world where nothing is as it seems. Their mother didn’t die when Winter was born. Edward hasn’t appeared by chance. The sisters are not living on an island.

Most unexpected of all is the hint that perhaps there is only one sister. Has Winter created a second self to help her cope with so many horrific life experiences? After the final page there’s a quote from Albert Camus: ‘In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer…’

The book is full of wonderfully-written dreamlike sequences: the talking whale is especially memorable. YA readers will delight in its complexity and intricate plotting.

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