This month we’re reading The Ship by Antonia Honeywell. We’ve already heard from the author in last week’s Book of the Month blog and today the editor, Arzu Tahsin of Weidenfeld & Nicolson reveals more about the story behind the story.
Arzu Tahsin, Deputy Publishing Director at Weidenfeld & Nicolson
“A young woman wonders whether the ship her father has procured to carry her family away to safety while London is in collapse, is a myth. Can this vessel of hope really exist? And how soon can they board it?
These are the thoughts racing through Lalla’s mind in the opening paragraphs of Antonia Honeywell’s The Ship. I was immediately enchanted by Lalla and then intrigued as to what might be going on in this other London. A London very similar to my own, housing the British Museum, Hyde Park and Covent Garden tube, yet viewed through the author’s devastating and dystopian lens.
Just like in the film Bladerunner I could recognise the setting; technology and communication are different, but not that different. London’s great parks and galleries now house the dispossessed and desperate. The British Museum no longer showcases its most valuable treasures and a network of danger lurks underground.
The financial world is in melt down, again, a scenario we can well imagine and the army patrols the streets, trying to maintain some order in the madness, and often shooting to kill.
What stood out for me in Antonia’s novel were the very human choices that had to be made to survive life in this new order. The very notion of staying human has become the greatest of ambitions. But Lalla’s father, a visionary wheeler-dealer, wants to save his family and so choses five hundred worthy people to flee this broken city on a vast ship.
Lalla is faced with the challenge of growing up in an artificial environment created by her father and sustained by his legion of five hundred followers. But escaping is one thing, and survival quite another. Food is plentiful but other things are severely lacking, like answers to Lalla’s increasingly urgent questions. Where is this ship headed and why will no one tell her what exactly is going on?
The Ship shows a young woman questioning her past, her present and her future as she begins to realise that her Father’s ‘Ark’ is not all that it seems… As things take a sinister turn Lalla realises she must grow up and that is not so easy when the adults around her seem to have left all their humanity on dry land.”
Arzu’s question for readers: “What would you do if you were Lalla? Do you think she’s over-reacting or not vocal enough?”
The Ship will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on Thursday 19th February 2015. To find out how you can enter our competition to win a pre-publication copy of the novel, and to win membership of our book group for January, just check our earlier blog here.