The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde REVIEW

A very relevant, very scary book.

the end of the ocean

You say it’s in our nature to provide for our descendants. But we are really only providing for ourselves. Ourselves and our children. At the very most, our grandchildren. We forget about those who will come after.

The End of the Ocean, translated from the original Norwegian by the deft hand of Diane Oatley, is essential reading. In 2017, Signe is crossing the ocean in a sailing boat, on a mission to find and confront the lost love of her life. In 2041, David and his young daughter Lou are running from war-torn Southern Europe, and searching for the family they have been separated from. In an abandoned French garden, they find Signe’s sailing boat and the two stories become entwined.

This book feels very relevant, and made for very necessary, very uncomfortable reading. Whilst reading, I’d put it down, switch on the news, and see Australia on fire right here, right now. 2041 doesn’t really seem all that far away, especially as David and Lou have also been caught up in fires that are, in their case, ravaging the countries of Southern Europe. Those images of red and yellow skies over Australian cities have been providing a very visceral reality to go along with this story.

Signe’s tale, filled with flashbacks to her life with Magnus – her lost love – and the activism they were involved in, can be tricky to follow at times. Signe is never anything less than a very compelling character – whether she is a teenage activist or the seventy year old sailor – but occasionally her story slows down too much, especially due to a lot of sailing terminology that honestly lost me. Her thread is the strongest when it focuses on her relationship with Magnus, and her rage at how he sold out to the corporate machine.

It may be that occasionally her story feels a little slower because on the other hand we have David and Lou, who are completely absorbing. Their story is one of horror; the drought and the fire that drove them from their home, the members of their family missing, the refugee camp that they end up in. I couldn’t read it fast enough. Lunde doesn’t skimp on the details of it all, like the sickness or the frayed tempers that lead to fights, or the unspoken pains of family just gone. This isn’t some story. Such camps as this might not be climate related yet, but they exist.

Lunde is a very matter of fact writer. Her words are full of detail but simple. She explains ideas well, characters have little time for sentiment. She clearly feels passionately about climate issues, but couldn’t be accused of scare-mongering; each little horror builds on top of the last, little things that are just accepted as normal until the next one comes and that becomes normal too. It feels frighteningly realistic, very reminiscent of how there are a lot of people right now burying their heads in the sand and doing the exact same thing.

The End of the Ocean is another of those books that feels essential. Stories can’t save us from ourselves, but they can help us to open our minds and think in a different way. In the end, that is definitely what Lunde is inviting us to do.

Review copy provided.

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the end of the ocean
A scarily realistic tale of climate change and how we are all connected to one another.