Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker

'This, of course, is the day we all remember. There'd been a change, they said, a slowing...'

The premise for this novel is intriguing and frightening. What if our days here on Earth started to get longer and longer, first by minutes, then by hours? 

Narrated in the first person by eleven-year-old Julia, we see this shocking and unprecedented event, referred to as 'the slowing', through her eyes as she looks back on it. She sees the expensive beachside homes on the Californian coast disappear under water, she sees little birds dead and dying in front of her eyes, whales beached and dying, and she sees neighbours ostracized by others because they choose to accept this new day rather than keep to the clock time decreed by the President.

Whilst this happens and affects all aspects of her life, she is nevertheless still a young girl dealing with everything that growing up entails, and she is moved by a boy she likes helping her out, she is hurt when her old best friend turns her back on her, she is beginning to see her parents in a new light, noticing that they have flaws. Her friendships change, she becomes lonelier and unhappier. 'I had grown into a worrier, a girl on constant guard for catastrophes large and small, for the disappointments I now sensed were hidden all around us right in plain sight.' 

Living on clock time, Julia experiences nights full of sunlight, and days at school when the world is in darkness, and it seems like anything could happen now: 'This was a time in my life when things were happening every day that would have seemed impossible only the day before...'

I kept thinking about this book after closing it, and I felt the need to discuss the ideas in it. I was fascinated by the way the people became divided between those following 'clock time' and those following 'real time', so that the rest of the population real-timers as 'freaks'. I was also fascinated by how there were eventually two clock days for every one real time day. I was curious to consider how quickly people adapted to the changes, so that what had gone before soon came to feel more unusual than how they were living now. It's very possible that that is just how we might come to feel if this were to happen for real.

I felt an overwhelming sadness at the thought of what their world had lost; no more birdsong, foods that they would never again eat, people becoming ill or driven mad by the changes in time. This novel isn't heavily laden with scientific theory and explanations of the changes, nor does it give us a view from the masses about what is happening, which some readers may prefer, so if that is the book you are looking for, look elsewhere. Instead it presents to us how one young person's life is altered, and what that person sees happening to those close to them, offering one view of this new reality and how her life goes on with all of this happening around her. Despite all that happens in the world, her life is still in certain ways the life of any young girl, for whom 'no force on earth could slow the forward march of sixth grade.' In focussing on this one perspective, we are given a restricted view of the slowing, and rules out other areas of exploration into this change

The Age of Miracles is such an intriguing book and definitely an eye-opening, thought-provoking read. This is a brave, momentous subject to tackle in a debut novel, to write about an imagined, speculative future of mankind, and then further, to show this through just one young girl's eyes. For the most part, I enjoyed experiencing this through Julia's eyes. Perhaps a little more space devoted to the reaction of the world at large would have been welcome, but too much of that, combined with more scientific proof,  would see this become another book from the one the author has evidently chosen to write. It could provide a great talking point amongst young adult readers, though it is most probably older readers who in a lot of cases are more in need of a shift in attitude towards their use of the earth's resources. To my mind this is an ideal book for book group discussion because there is so much raised, discussion could go off in multiple directions spurred on by this book and these topics. 

Published by Simon & Schuster on 21st June 2012.

Thank you very much to the publisher for kindly offering a review copy of this novel at their book blogger event.

You can visit two websites related to this novel - The Slowing and The Age of Miracles

Below is a video featuring the author introducing the novel.


  1. I think you enjoyed it a lot more than me, maybe because I read so many end of the world is night type books I was expecting more from it. Really interesting concept and I'm sure it will be a huge success this summer.

    1. I agree that is a big part of the reason, this sort of read is very new to me, I had few notions going in to it of what I expected. Can see for a reader more up on this genre and are already would want more.

  2. I have to admit that dystopia is not generally my thing, but you certainly made this one sound intriguing....

    1. It's not my thing really, which is partly why this one was so interesting and accesible for me I think.

  3. Wow, this sounds like an amazing concept for a book, but so much sadness...I'm going to keep my ye on this one.

    1. It really is an interesting idea to have written about, and you're right that it's intrinsically very sad too. Could be a big book.


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