I loved The History of Bees, and I was delighted to discover that Maja Lunde’s second novel was being translated into English.
From the author of the number one international bestseller The History of Bees, a captivating new novel about the threat of a worldwide water shortage as seen through the eyes of a father and daughter.
In 2019, seventy-year-old Signe sets out on a hazardous voyage to cross an entire ocean in only a sailboat. She is haunted by the loss of the love of her life, and is driven by a singular and all-consuming mission to make it back to him.
In 2041, David flees with his young daughter, Lou, from a war-torn Southern Europe plagued by drought. They have been separated from their rest of their family and are on a desperate search to reunite with them once again, when they find Signe’s abandoned sailboat in a parched French garden, miles away from the nearest shore.
The End of the Ocean alternates between two timelines. The reader sees seventy-year-old Signe in 2019 as she returns to her hometown in Norway. Signe is a great character. She lives alone on her boat, and has for a long time been aware of the impact that humans and industry have on the environment, including global warming, the destruction of natural habitats and the impact this has on biodiversity. In her youth, she was involved in various protests against the way in which nature is sacrificed for industrial gain, and it felt as though she was ahead of her time, with environmental concerns around issues such as global warming really taking hold during the 1960s (to the best of my knowledge).
Even being aware of the issues, she is shocked when she returns to her hometown and sees the way in which the glacier there has reduced in size. Of equal concern is that the glacier is being drilled in order to ship the ice abroad for use by some of the wealthiest people on the planet, with them being the only ones who could afford such an outrageous habit. Signe is not afraid to get her hands dirty, and she sabotages the latest batch of ice. She then sets sail, both before she can be caught, but also to confront Magnus, her former lover and the man who approved this scheme. Her journey is perilous, but Signe is extremely capable, and I loved her no-nonsense attitude. Throughout her journey, she looks back on her life, and the reader sees her as a young girl, then woman, with all the ups and downs that one’s life may take. It’s a fascinating narrative, and Signe has made some difficult choices in her time. She has the usual share of regrets, but throughout she has stayed true to her beliefs, and she is an admirable character.
Signe’s story alternates with that of David in 2041. Forced to flee southern Europe with his daughter, Lou, he arrives at a refugee camp desperately seeking news of his wife and son from whom he became separated during their escape. David’s is an altogether different story, although the two narratives do link up. I didn’t find David to be a particularly likeable character, although his daughter Lou is lovely, but his story is a compelling one, particularly as the reader finds out more about the events that forced him and his family out of their home in southern Spain.
In Lunde’s future, global warming has caused widespread drought with the equatorial zone now uninhabitable. This causes people to seek the marginally more temperate and hospitable regions towards the poles. While refugee camps have been set up to aid those who have had to flee their homes, the reader sees how these are deteriorating as the story progresses, with increasing demand placed upon the ever-dwindling supplies made available to refugees. It’s a horrifying view of a future that is both possible and plausible, and not nearly distant enough. A powerful and compelling novel.
The End of the Ocean is will be published on 31 October by Scribner. Many thanks to the publisher for allowing me read and review this novel ahead of publication via Netgalley.