Author: John Rowe Townsend
Genre: YA fiction
Page Count: 211
Why I read it: review copy from publisher
Noah's Castle tells the story of a family trying to survive during a total collapse of the British economy. Money is worthless, unemployment skyrockets, and food and other goods become scarce.
As conditions worsen and people begin to starve, how do people react? When does law-and-order break down and civilized behavior end? How do people balance the needs of their family against those of society? Noah's Castle examines these questions but doesn't provide easy answers, resulting in a unique and thought-provoking story of survival.
This book was first published in 1975, so it feels a little more dated than the young adult that's coming out right now. I'm not entirely sure of the reason for the second edition, except that there's a rise in dystopian YA literature, and the publishers saw a chance to market this book to that audience. For me, it didn't quite measure up to some of what I've read. There are books like Life as We Knew It, which was so haunting and real that I kept checking to see if the world really was ending, if I still had electricity and food in my cupboards. This one, while an interesting study on human behavior, just didn't grab me in the same way.
Because we hear the story only from Barry's perspective, who seems to think his father has taken a short train ride to crazy town, it's hard to get the full picture. We don't find out the main reason behind his father's actions until the very end of the story. Having known that throughout the book, I think I would have been better able to see things from his father's point of view, and the moral dilemma would have been more compelling.
I think this may be a good one if you're looking for a short book for your book group, as it could promote some interesting discussion.