I recently read an interview with Ann Patchett where see was asked about how hard it was to scrap a piece of writing that wasn’t working, and to start again. The interviewer thought it might be like a little death to let go a hard-won piece of writing, but Patchett was more pragmatic. Her reply was that writing was like baking a cake. Sometimes you burnt the cake and had to make it again. But before you did, you could cut open the burnt cake and eat the warm, gooey, soft bits in the middle that weren’t burnt.
With that in mind, I jettisoned the over-cooked post I had been labouring over for a couple of weeks for this book. It was a relief to let it go.
I enjoyed The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell so much, that my desire to write a response that did it justice, had got all messy and complicated with too many ingredients. If you promise to read on, I promise no more cooking metaphors!
This young adult novel will not suit everybody’s tastes.
Lots of readers do not like dual narratives, so be warned, this book is narrated by twins, Summer and Winter.
Our two protagonists are also unreliable narrators, another love/hate device for many readers. Personally, I loved the mixed messages we were getting from Summer and Winter throughout the book. Who was telling the truth? Who wasn’t? And why?
The story also jumps time and place fairly regularly as the girls remember all sorts of stuff about their childhood from their current position, stranded on a deserted island, without their father, after the world has gone to shit rather suddenly and dramatically. And rather presciently given current Covid-19 events.
The island and the outside environment are key players in this story. The island is a refuge, a place made safe thanks to their father’s forethought and planning. The outside world is a scary place. A place where their mother died, and where their father’s work has helped to create a environmental disaster. But then the safety of the island is threatened when a stranger appears.
The End of the World is Bigger than Love is a story about relationships, memories, feelings, dreams, doubts and fears, therefore, not at all suitable for those seeking adventure and action.
Then there’s the mix of cyber-terrorism, eco-dystopian, speculative fiction and coming-of-age themes with a whiff of romance. This rather unconventional mix, might put some readers off, however, it worked beautifully for me. Even the ambiguous ending wasn’t enough to deter me from my glowing, gushing feelings for this book.
Finally, Summer is pretty verbose. She uses lots of words instead of just a few and her energy levels and enthusiasm for everything is pretty high. In fact, she comes across as one of those rather annoying teenage girls who talks very loudly, very fast and thinks that everyone wants to know every little thing about her, and they want to know it right now! In real life, this would annoy me no end, but here, I found Summer to be rather endearing.
Perhaps it was all the books.
Both Summer and Winter are great readers, thanks to the library left to them by their mother. Their list of desert island books was truly impressive. Why did they never try to leave the island for two years? I say the books!
Why would you need the rest of the big bad climate-mess world and the deadly greying, when you could read and reread books like Anne of Green Gables, The Diary of a Young Girl, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Outsiders, The Secret Garden, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to name just a few.
This book may not be for you, and that’s okay, but for those of you like me, who love to fall headlong into a bookish world of words and ideas, uncertainty and mystery with two strong characters, then this is the book to dive into.
Love can sometimes feel like the end of the world, and the end of the world may be bigger than love, but if you have to face down the end of the world as you know it, then it’s much better to do so with love by your side.
Obviously, my time with Summer has affected me more than I thought!
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, and it’s not an easy book to describe, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Summer and Winter, even when I wanted to shake them or give them a good piece of my mind! Being a teenager is not an easy thing. Books like this remind of us how awkward and uncertain and fearless this time can be and can also make us grateful for how short a period of time this phase actually is in the scheme of a whole life, even though it doesn’t feel like that at the time.
We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea, and you don’t believe in miracles?
Davina Bell has had an interesting career trajectory. From working in publishing/editing to writing award-winning picture books for children and primary school aged kids, and now, The End of the World is Bigger than Love.
- Our Australian Girl: Alice Stories
- The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade (illustrator Allison Colpoys)
- Birthday Baby (with Jane Godwin and illustrated by Freya Blackwood)
- Hattie Helps Out (with Jane Godwin and illustrated by Freya Blackwood)
- Oh, Albert! (illustrator Sara Acton)
- Under the Love Umbrella (illustrator Allison Colpoys)
- Lemonade Jones (with Karen Blair)
- The Corner Park Clubhouse series
- Baby Day (with Jane Godwin and illustrated by Freya Blackwood)
- All the Ways to Be Smart (illustrator Allison Colpoys)
- All the Factors of Why I Love Tractors (illustrator Jennie Lovlie)
- Winner Ethel Turner Prize for Young Adult’s Literature NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2021
- Winner Book of the Year for Older Readers CBCA 2021