Review published on May 8, 2017.
Havergey used to appear on maps, but it has long since disappeared from them. Even though most don’t know it exists, it is home to the wanderers and dreamers from a shattered world seeking a new life in an ancient land still formed by its exposure to the elements. They rarely have visitors though, so when a guy appears the small community is naturally curious. He is slightly bewildered, claiming to have come from the past. They ask him to stay in a building near the shore as a form of quarantine, and he is assigned Ben, the Watcher, to look after him and help him settle.
John is not going to be allowed out, but he will be fed and sheltered. In the same building is the community archive, a collection of documents and letters and other texts. As he sits and reads them during the day, John starts to get a feel for the way that the community has evolved to its present state. He is joined every meal time by Ben, who tells of the Collapse and the state of the world now from the one that he left and who asks his guest what he makes of their island and if he would be able to make his home here.
Reading this is a strange and almost surreal experience. It is full of subtle nuances as Burnside explores the concepts of utopia on an island that is a refuge in a dystopian world. He also uses it as way of making us the reader think just what we are doing to this world that we live on, not only in the obvious harm, but to consider the misguided good that some think is appropriate. There is not a huge amount of character development as the themes are the prominent way of getting us to think about the current state of the world. I did like it, in particular, the sparse but eloquent prose, but at times it was a bit too fleeting. The main points it is trying to convey dovetail in quite well with the Confessions of a Reluctant Environmentalist that I read recently. It is a book that I will read again and mull over with a glass of something.
Paul Cheney 3/3
Havergey by John Burnside
Little Toller Books 9781908213464 hbk Apr 2017
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