The Stranding; hope, love and the end of the world

I’ve got to be honest with you, when I was approached by Hodder Publicity to read and review of The Stranding, the debut novel from Kate Sawyer, I wasn’t entirely convinced this was my type of book. Pitched as a story about a ‘woman who hides from the end of the world in the belly of a whale‘, I just wasn’t in the mood to read anymore dystopian fiction, especially after what we’ve been living through these past 18 months or so. However after reading the glowing reviews about this book from some of my favourite authors including the great Marian Keyes, I decided to give it a try.

And you know what? I’m so glad I did. The Stranding is dystopia with a beautiful difference – it is an authentic portrayal of love, loss and hope. Although hiding in the mouth of a whale may appear a tad far fetched, this is a novel that is actually very real. In many ways I felt it really resonated with me, and I loved it for that.

I’m not the quickest reader in the world, but I found myself engrossed within this compelling narrative, juxtaposed between before the end of the world and a new post-apocalyptic world. Just to reassure you if you’re not the biggest fan of apocalyptical fiction – neither am I. However this book really drew me in and captured my imagination in a beautiful way that I didn’t expect. Hence I read it quickly (for me anyway) over a weekend.

If you frequently read my blog posts, you’ll know I love a good character driven story, and The Stranding is just that. The central character is Ruth who pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go. She is flawed, human and I really liked her. When we are introduced to Ruth in the ‘before’ life’ she is mid 30s, in a relationship with a married man, unsure of herself and always striving for that ‘something else’. But what is that something else? This endless search seems to result in Ruth making what some may view as mistake after mistake, hence causing her to question herself more and more. I felt this was something that many of us women can relate to.

Yet as Ruth juggles society’s expectations of her including friendships, motherhood, sex and relationships, she seems to loose herself more and more in the woman that other people expect her to be, especially her married boyfriend. She is also constantly berated for avoiding the news. Yet there is something burning deep within her – a want to pursue a childhood dream of working with whales. Although she is accused of being ‘such a mess‘ and ‘running away‘, enhancing her doubts about herself, Ruth gets on a flight to New Zealand to pursue her lifelong dream.

Yet as soon as she lands in New Zealand, there is an unsettling atmosphere that is unnerving to read. Ruth soon realises that the end of the world is coming. She comes across a whale that has been stranded on the beach, and ignoring that the end of the world is almost upon her, she desperately tries to save the whale. It is at this time that she also encounters a lone stranger. In the end, it is the stranding that saves Ruth. In more ways than one.

The Stranding is a raw but beautiful story of survival; not just surviving the apocalypse but also a portrayal of the coping mechanisms women use to to ‘survive’ the judgements, views and expectations we can encounter within society. This is a powerful and engaging novel, full of layers and authenticity. Especially as it explores the connection of ‘loving’ relationships between men and women and self-love:

That is a regret: how much energy she put into trying to make people like her. She laments the time she wasted on worrying that she wasn’t nice or good, so much focus on intangible concepts, when other people’s views were none of her business. She had been selfish occasionally and made stupid mistakes, but the time she’d squandered on self evaluating and criticising herself was her biggest crime.

The Stranding is subtle and powerful. It is a book I am so glad I have read, especially as it reminded me to be true to myself. Only published last Thursday 24th June, I thoroughly recommend it as a novel to read this summer, especially if you love being immersed in a character-driven story.

Thank you to Niamh Anderson from Hodder Publicity for approaching me and inviting me to read and review The Stranding as part of the blog tour. To follow the tour and find out more about this beautiful novel, please see below.

Happy reading everyone! 🙂

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