I came across this book on Chapters/Indigo’s website this past summer, mostly because the cover is beyond beautiful, but the subject matter was interesting. It’s not often I read books on environmental issues or topics, but this one captured something in me mainly because it follows an aging character, which isn’t something you normally hear or read about. So, this week on the blog, we review Maja Lunde’s The End of The Ocean, have a read and let us know what you think!
No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.David Attenborough
The book follows 2 timelines, that of Signe, a 70 year old water activist and avid sailor who sets out on a vengeful journey across the ocean to deliver ice taken from a Northern waterfall to her long loss love and water adversary. Fast forward 22 years later, the book then follows a father and daughter separated from his wife and baby boy, they make it to a refugee camp in Southern Europe. As a means to protect his young daughter, Lou, David takes her on walks near the camp in order to keep her occupied, while on one of these trips, they stumble upon Signe’s sailboat from 22 years prior. This book is an ominous reminder of how reliant and important water is to our and the planet’s sustainability, it is filled with a father’s love, hope, resilience and a human’s drive when fuelled by emotions, be it negative or positive.
Signe : 70 year old avid sailor and water activist
Magnus : Signes’ 1st love and adversary after he signs off on the construction of a hydro-powered dam in their Norwegian village
David : Young husband and father living in a world post water
Lou : David’s young, headstrong, resilient daughter
Marguerite : Fellow refugee, who David attempts to befriend and eventually becomes his love interest
The Break Down:
This book reads so easily that you almost don’t realize just how dire the parallels are for us now, with climate change. Though it flashes back and forth, between 2019 and 2041, Signe’s world and David’s world respectively, the reader is given a very clear visual of Signe’s life with water abundance and her life long drive and mission to protect it. The foreshadowing to David’s world without water, with the violence and the desperation- is very depressing. The contrast is stark and deliberate, of that I am sure. Most of Signe’s chapters are focused on her looking back at her life, her realization that she is aging, despite her not feeling her age, she speaks of the aches in her bones and the disappointment that she wasn’t able to do more in her life when it came to protecting the water. Her story begins with her theft of 20 something plastic barrels of harvested ice from a waterfall in her Norwegian village. It comes to her knowledge that Magnus, her childhood friend and the love of her life, signed off on the harvesting of this ice, to be served to rich people. This angers her and her feelings of betrayal ultimately fuel(s) her treacherous and dangerous trip from Northern Norway all the way to Southern France, where she vows she will dump it all out in front of Magnus as her last gesture. The parallels with David’s story is that he eventually finds Signe’s boat and her personal items which have been left untouched and in some ways this boat becomes a sort of shelter for David and Lou. Spoiler: the barrels of ice which Signe bring to Magnus do not get dumped and ultimately they lead up to David and Lou stumbling upon it, hidden, buried and overgrown in the forest near the boat. So interestingly, the plastic which we all know is terrible for the environment, in this case helps to preserve over 20 barrels of water 22 years later for David, Lou and Marguerite, just as they were essentially accepting their fate and their ultimate death due to the lack of water.
The post apocalyptic tone of the book in David’s chapters were heavy, countries without water at war with countries with water, people fighting and attacking each other, making choices on who gets to live and which crisis is important enough to use water on. The countless families torn apart and separated, realizing just how much we need water for absolutely everything. The desperation of needing to be tough and strong in order to try to survive, at the same time needing to be soft and understanding for his young daughter as he didn’t want to worry Lou. Flipping that with the fact that he realizes without water, they will all die anyways, so maybe his protection of her, Lou, will be in vain. So many emotions and no many layers. Especially over the fact that David felt attracted to Marguerite, but his focus was on reuniting to his little family and truing to find his wife and son, but he felt like his attraction to Marguerite was a betrayal to his wife and to Lou. Ultimately his animalistic passion takes over and he throws caution to the wind, with the notion that they’re all going to die, once the water runs out at the refuge camp and chaos ensues.
I read some reviews where readers complained about the fact that the book didn’t seem to “go anywhere” and while I can understand what they mean, I don’t think that it was the goal of the book. To me, it made the book even more stark and “desperate”, with the fact that David wanted to reunite his family but ultimately knowing it was near impossible. His mental roller coaster of trying to make connections with people, but also protecting his daughter and the last remnants of water or food they did have, the animalistic nature of it all. I believe the author intended for it to be a cautionary tale, to show the importance of water to human survival and ultimately human existence, but also in some ways how plastic really isn’t a sustainable material. Especially considering the fact that the barrels Signe travelled with, still contained, fresh clean water after all those years. Of course there were some glaring character development flaws, but again, I really do not believe this was the ultimate goal of the book, or at least not enough to take away from its core message.
Would We Recommend?
I would, it’s not a book that’s going to knock your socks off, but it’s a quiet storm. The subtle message is impactful, at least to me and I saw and understood the warning signs loud and clear, but still in a clever way.
3.5 out of 5