Title: The Book of Air
Author: Joe Treasure
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Source: Publisher for review
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥ / ♥♥♥♥♥
Retreating from an airborne virus with a uniquely unsettling symptom, property developer Jason escapes London for his country estate, where he is forced to negotiate a new way of living with an assortment of fellow survivors.
Far in the future, an isolated community of descendants continue to farm this same estate. Among their most treasured possessions are a few books, including a copy of Jane Eyre, from which they have constructed their hierarchies, rituals and beliefs. When 15-year-old Agnes begins to record the events of her life, she has no idea what consequences will follow. Locked away for her transgressions, she escapes to the urban ruins and a kind of freedom, but must decide where her future lies.
These two stories interweave, illuminating each other in unexpected ways and offering long vistas of loss, regeneration and wonder.
* I received this book in exchange for an honest review, this does not alter my opinion of it in any way *
We follow to stories in this book – that of Jason, a survivor of the virus, a disease that wiped out a large amount of the human race; and Agnes, a young girl in the far future living in an isolated community.
It took me a little while to get into the flow of this book. I did spend a fair amount of the beginning, quite confused about what was going on. Once I got into the two story lines it was a lot easier to follow.
Jason lives in a world where most of the population were taken by the virus. In his home there is only him and a handful of others’ who are immune. They get by as well as they can, with no electricity or running water, and very little food. Agnes lives in the future, where they study four books, including the Book of Air – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It is a kind of Bible to them.
As odd as believing Jane Eyre was a kind of bible was, it was an interesting idea for Treasure to come up with. It helped that I have read it, and therefore when the characters talked about things that Jane did, I followed along easily. Obviously, it is not required that you be familiar with Jane Eyre but it does make it a little easier.
What kept me enticed with the story was finding out how these two characters could be connected. They are in completely different worlds, different ages and have completely different circumstances. It was very clever how Treasure put it all together.
All through this book, in both characters’ points of view, there is a major theme of hope. This keeps you reading, to find out what happens to them in the end, and to see if having hope did them any good.
About the Author:
Raised sixth in a family of nine, Joe Treasure enjoyed a capriciously Bohemian childhood. Having received his educational grounding at the hands of Carmelite priests, he escaped to Cheltenham Grammar School where he excelled only in music and art. His architectural ambitions were thwarted by low grades in maths and physics. The local college of further education allowed him to pursue more congenial subjects, after which he surprised everyone, not least himself, by winning a place to read English at Keble College, Oxford.
Killing a goat
A virus has wiped out most of the human population. A group of survivors have gathered in Jason’s house in rural Wales. Esther, one of Deirdre’s goats, is injured. Aleksy takes charge, helped by Abigail and Jason, who tells the story.
Deirdre, standing at the kitchen door, held herself together, though the colour drained from her face.
‘Poor Esther. What happened? Did she wander on to the road? Stupid question. Sorry. No traffic.’
‘Bring a bucket,’ Aleksy said, ‘and a sharp knife. And a bucket. And a bowl for blood.’
‘How did you say it happened?’
‘There was a trap in the wood.’
‘And you don’t think they’re out there?’ All her feeling for the goat has risen suddenly and spilled out in this question. ‘You still don’t think they’re coming for us?’
‘An old trap, Deedee. For rabbits. Rusted and forgotten.’ She turns in the doorway and retreats into the shadows.
Aleksy shouts after her, ‘Make sure it’s sharp, this knife.’
It knows it’s done for. When Aleksy lays it down, the legs flail, scrabbling for purchase on the flagstones, and the squealing starts. I kneel on its chest, the way Aleksy tells me, and feel it heaving against me and put more weight on it to stop its noise. It’s Abigail who brings the knife and hands it to Aleksy. She sets down the bucket, while Aleksy squats, and she hands him a plastic ice cream tub. He puts it to one side of him and then to the other, and his face goes through its routine of involuntary grimaces. He’s feeling the neck with his free hand. The knife shakes and then seems to jump forward, pulling his arm behind it. Aleksy’s grunt is lost in the grunting of the goat. And the blood is on his trousers and on the stones and spirting at last into the ice cream tub. He takes the front leg and works it as if he’s pumping water. The back legs kick and the whole body struggles under me and lies still.
I’m panting as though I’ve run a mile, and when I stand up my legs shake.
Aleksy kneels in closer with the knife and saws an opening from the neck to the groin.
‘Take hind legs,’ he says. ‘Hold her up, like this.’
I lift until only the head lies sideways on the stones. Abigail comes forward with the bucket, and the stomach and the intestines and all the neatly packed organs flop into it and rearrange themselves.
Abigail goes to the corner of the yard, where a wheelie bin, fed by a truncated downpipe, brims from the recent rain.
Aleksy, still on one knee, looks up at me, his shoulders rising and falling. ‘Next time easier,’ he says.
‘You’ve done it before though.’
‘I watched my uncle maybe five, six times. Summers I helped on the farm.’
He helps me tie the goat by its hind legs to the stable door for the blood to drain, and I’m stirred suddenly with love for this short-legged bull of a man who knows things I don’t know. I ask him, ‘Was there fresh meat where you were… during the end times?’ The phrase comes to me from my childhood, to name a time for which there is no name.
‘Not so much.’
He isn’t ready to talk about it, and I’m glad because neither am I.