The Ship by Antonia Honeywell
Published 2016 by W&N
My copy: Library
Welcome to London, but not as you know it. Oxford Street burned for three weeks; Regent’s Park has been bombed; the British Museum is occupied by those with nowhere else to go.
Lalla has grown up sheltered from the chaos, but now she’s sixteen, her father decides it’s time to use their escape route – a ship big enough to save five hundred people. Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla’s unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want? What is the price of salvation?
The premise of this novel was really interesting – in summary, the world is slowly ending and the streets of London are in chaos, with troops indiscriminately killing off innocent people who are starving on the streets. But, slightly cocooned from the mayhem is Lalla, living in a flat more-or-less safe from the outside world with her loving mother and father, the latter of whom has a plan to save themselves from this predicament.
How to do this? Well, he has managed to get his hands on an enormous ship, fully stocked and ready to set sail to safer shores with 500 punters signed up. But Lalla doesn’t really understand fully what is going on – and mum isn’t keen on boarding the ship at all as she feels she’s abandoning the doomed people on the streets.
I was sucked straight into this novel, as it felt very different to what I would normally read and I was intrigued by the whole idea. The father is probably the most interesting character as he isn’t always as he seems on the surface, and once on the ship he starts to change in a number of ways. Lalla is also interesting – she is naïve in many ways, but also – despite everything going on around her – a typical stroppy teenager with very strong views and ideas of her own.
But before I had even made it halfway through the book I found myself struggling, as really not very much actually happens once they are on the ship. I expected a lot more action but it is quite slow and I felt that the book needed a bit more excitement! In fact I even skipped a whole chapter to see if I would miss anything, and I can honestly say it made absolutely no difference. Even towards the end when a group of the ship’s inhabitants seemed to be forming their own protest group, this then fizzled out into nothing. In all honestly, the whole thing was a bit boring and by the end I just felt a bit indifferent.
I also had to suspend disbelief that the ship existed at all – and it was never really entirely clear how Lalla’s father had managed to conceal the ship for so long or procure years’ worth of supplies!
Overall, I think this was a good idea with interesting characters, but this wasn’t enough to sustain a whole novel and I was definitely left wanting more from it.
My rating: 5 out of 10