Canvey Island by James Runcie

How Water Marks

The news brings horrifying reports of floods in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, New Orleans and many other places. We are hit with images of people standing on top of their homes waiting for rescue while their belongings are swept away. In need of food, shelter and safety these people become refugees at the mercy of others. But what happens next? What happens to the survivors whose lives have been torn apart by this act of nature? James Runcie’s third novel Canvey Island (2006, The Other Press, NY) explores the aftermath of such a tragic event focusing on the struggles of one family over a forty-year time span in postwar England. It shows how a sound bite on the public’s radar compares to the lifelong effect a tragedy evokes in the lives of the victims. It’s also a book about uncommunicated truths. Secrets, both personal and political were handled differently in the ’50s. Find out how. Runcie’s spare lyric style of writing makes this simple story a quiet thunderstorm on your weather map. Prepare to open the flood gates.

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