Firstly, huge thank you to Angry Robot and NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur are learning how to co-exist in their new little world. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly—from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.GoodReads
But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. And the earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. Fortunately, Easton Grove is here for that in the form of a perfect little bundle to take home and harvest. You can live for as long as you keep it—or her—close.
I need to start off this review by saying that I completely loved this book, it tackles a subject that I’m fascinated by and I didn’t even realise it until I was at least three quarters of the way through. Due to the nature of the book, and the fact that there are so many moments where you will have a ‘penny drop’ realisation, I have to be quite careful with my rambling over this book as there’s so much I want to say about it and why I loved it, but most of those reasons are because of what I discovered for myself and the feeling of “wait… what?!” that I had at so many points throughout this novel.
It’s a personal favourite of mine when authors can effortlessly build mystery and the world around the characters without explicitly sitting the reader down, so to speak, and giving us a history lesson. This is something that Hardaker does masterfully, you always know just enough to understand the context of what is happening but not to see the wider picture. Whilst there were a couple of times I would have liked more information, it’s more down to personal preference rather than what it would have added to the story. I don’t think that it was missing these particular aspects, they would have just been a ‘nice to have’. Despite this, it is the mystery and intrigue around these characters and this society which keeps you utterly absorbed. It also felt like there was something symbolic over being kept in the dark, the way that both Norah and Art have to keep their friends, and society, in the dark over what they are doing with Easton Grove. This is further emphasised when you begin to wonder if Norah and Art even understand the full extent behind the mysteriously helpful company.
The entire novel is from Norah’s perspective which I really enjoyed, especially as she developed; from being positive and certain regarding her membership with Easton Grove to beginning to doubt and question it. I also liked the fact that it was Norah looking back too, as this added to the suspense: she makes references to wishing she knew certain things then as she does now, which just makes you wonder what happened to her to feel that way. At first I couldn’t see how Norah and Art fit together, the relationship felt very forced and unnatural; however, there were times where I could understand how they worked and after finishing the novel I can see how this is just another brilliantly subtle nod to how their lives aren’t what they initially seem.
Of course, I can’t talk about characters without discussing Nut, their furry friend that they need to keep secret and safe or risk losing their membership with Easton Grove, and potentially much more. I loved the way that Nut was described, you couldn’t quite work out what kind of creature she was exactly. The fluid image I had of her which changed depending on who was interacting with her and where made me even more curious as to how she fit into this harsh world. A world in which the birds have disappeared and in a desperate attempt to get funding, the NHS have joined with a faceless corporation to help care for people. Nut was such a delight and joy in the safe space of the house, which was an excellent contrast to the terrifying near future of the UK.
Overall, there is nothing else I can really say apart from you need to pick this book up.