NOT FORGETTING THE WHALE by John Ironmonger

Review published on August 18, 2015.

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read and was impossible to put down. John Ironmonger is a new name to me but one I shall be looking out for again.

Joe flees from his stressful, high powered job as an analyst in a City trading bank, as the computer programme he has developed is predicting not only to bring the bank down but a worldwide collapse of civilisation. He drives until he can’t drive any further and finds himself in a sleepy village called St Piran at the end of a winding lane in deepest Cornwall. When disaster strikes in the form of an oil crisis combined with a flu pandemic, the village barricades itself against outsiders and the community work together as a team to survive.

Besides Joe, the book is peopled with a colourful cast of villagers and a fin whale, who plays an important role in the story. Early in the book there is a quote “Any society is only three square meals from anarchy”. In the case of this small village, however, this is proved false and towards the end of the story we discover that in the country as a whole, communities have worked together to survive. There may be a small minority of selfish people who only think about themselves but the author clearly believes that human nature causes the vast majority of us to work together to overcome crisis.

Even though there is a grim scenario of disaster running through the story, I found this novel gloriously uplifting, heartwarming, entertaining, philosophical and thought provoking and it would provide lots of discussion for reading groups on topics such as short selling, disaster planning, pandemics, human behaviour and society’s dependence on oil. Highly recommended.

Sue Smith, Worcester

Personal read 5 

Group read 5

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