Ruth lives in the heart of the city. Working, drinking, falling in love: the rhythm of her vivid and complicated life there is set against a background hum of darkening news reports from which she deliberately turns away.
As a new relationship becomes increasingly claustrophobic, and the discussions of impending political crisis are harder to avoid, she starts to dream of water; of escaping entwining tentacles through deep blue seas. She sets out to the other side of the globe to find that vision of freedom, and to decide who she wants to be when she returns.
But when she arrives at her destination, she finds instead that the world, and life, she left behind no longer exists.
Starting at the end and eventually returning there, with alternate chapters set Before and After, THE STRANDING is a story of how to make a life, what it is to be a woman, and what remains when everything we know is stripped away.‘
Publication date: 24th June 2021
The thing that stands out the most to me about this book is how the author’s writing style manages to be so utilitarian and still beautiful. It explores a woman’s ability to reach her potential and thrive in a modern society and in a totally isolated setting.
The chapters alternate between two timelines, before the nuclear blast and afterwards. Ruth is an ordinary woman in her thirties who has struggled in relationships and is trying to settle down and be what she thinks she should be, but when the blast strikes and she finds herself one of two survivors, she’ll only continue surviving if she becomes what she needs to be instead. There’s no room for pretention, just getting on with it.
The contrast between the timelines is haunting, it’s a character study rather than a series of political events leading up to a finale, about how an average person can become extraordinary if the situation calls for it.
I was completely absorbed into this story, Ruth is a very personable character that I think most readers will be able to relate with on one level or another and Nik, the man she survives with, is the same. He’s a regular bloke with his own baggage that has a will to survive, even if seemingly there’s no point in carrying on.
This is a thoughtful read and one I highly recommend.