If that title doesn’t sound clear to you I apologize. But it is what it is:this is a book about an apocalypse that doesn’t happen, and since I’m usually not a great fan of post-apocalyptic novels, it makes it perfect for me.
Peggy, who is 8 at the beginning in the book grows up in London with her mother, a famous German concert pianist, and her father, much younger than her mother, who meets every week with fellows “retreaters”, or survivalists:they are convinced the world is going to end soon and try to prepare themselves for survival after that. At the end of the summer, Peggy’s father suddenly decides it is time to go and takes Peggy to “die Hütte” somewhere in a German forest, telling her the world has ended and that they are the only people remaining in it.
The book is split into two different timelines: their time in the woods (9 years), learning to survive on small animals and edible plants, alternating between moments of almost Thoreau-esque wilderness peace and miserable coldness and famine, and Peggy readjusting to life in the World, at 17, when she has returned to her mother and the younger brother she never knew she had. Between those two is the event that brought Peggy back to the world (and her realization that it still exists), towards which the books builds progressively, purposely hindered by Peggy’s failing memory (a clever trick allowing for an unreliable narrator due to her lacking B Vitamin, creating Korsakoff syndrome: amnesia and fabulation, that is, the brain creating false memories to fill the gaps).
In the end, it is much more a book about dysfunctional family dynamics, with the fascinating character of the father who we never really get to understand fully, and if the books is sometimes rather slow in pace while depicting their life in the woods all those years, and the final twist slightly predictable, it is still a very gripping story, beautifully written and ingeniously crafted. And it doesn’t matter if you like post-apocalyptic novels or not.
Quote: Dates only make us aware of how numbered our days are, how much closer to death we are for each one we cross off. From now on, Punzel, we’re going to live by the sun and the seasons.’ He picked me up and spun me around, laughing.’Our days will be endless.