I realise that the picture above shows a rather tatty looking copy of After Me Comes The Flood. I make no apologies for this, it’s the sign of a book that has been carried around in a bag, pulled out at every opportunity and read avidly.
As I’ve said many times, the best books often come by way of gifts. Books I may not have picked up myself or heard of. This is one such book. Although I had heard of it, I knew little of it. And with my evergrowing TBR pile who knows when I would have got around to reading it if I hadn’t received it as a gift.
Anyway enough rambling, down to the book in hand. ‘After Me Comes The Flood’ is the debut novel by the very talented Sarah Perry. It tells the story of John Cole who on one hot summers day drives away from his home in London leaving his life behind. HIs car breaks down and he seeks help at a tumbledown house in the country. Bizarrely it seems that the residents have been awaiting his arrival and he is welcomed with open arms into a strange community.
From the outset this book is slightly unsettling. Sarah Perry has a clever way of creating a charged atmosphere that results in an edgy read. She does this not only through the haunting characters but through the setting and also the weather. The stifling heat and the breathless air make for a suffocating intensity.
“A ginger cat with weeping eyes was stretched out in the shade between them panting in the sun. The painted door had peeled and blistered in the heat, and as I stood at the foot of the stairs I could see a doorknocker shaped like a man’s hand raised to rap an iron stone against an iron plate.”
From very early on we are given the impression that John is suffering physically and mentally. It’s clear he cannot manage the unbearable heat and his body is betraying him.
“I began to panic. My stomach clenched like a fist, and there was a sour taste in my mouth as if I’d already been sick. My heart beat with a kind of fury that repeated itself with a new pain in my head, and I couldn’t move my hands on the wheel – nothing about me was doing what it ought and I felt as though I were coming apart in pieces. “
As soon as John enters the house his life becomes intertwined with each of the other inhabitants and the mysteries contained in the house. Each character has a disconcerting quality and it takes some time for their odd relationships with each other and consequently with John to unfold.
This book is carefully written and the story is unhurried. However it is a page turner in every sense of the word. As a reader I was anxious to understand the complexity of this life John has walked into but fearful of where it might lead.
Read it if you can!