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June 8, 2011 5:58 am

Then

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Then, Julie Myerson, Jonathan Cape, RRP£12.99, 304 pages

 

The end of the world is nigh, in publishing at least, where all things apocalyptic are in vogue. Julie Myerson offers a haunting twist on Armageddon, in her eighth novel, Then, a genre-crossing confection of sci-fi, ghost tale and middle-class domestic tragedy.

In a ruined London, clad in ice and ravaged by fires, a nameless woman takes refuge in a disused skyscraper. Her memory is shot, but her companions seem vaguely familiar, not least a teenager whom she calls “the kid”. She is as oddly attracted to him as she is disturbed by the presence of a blonde child on one of the upper floors.

In brutally staccato prose, Myerson’s page-turner slowly lets us piece together the fragments of a back-story encompassing infidelity, violence and fierce maternal love. While the protagonist may test some readers’ sympathy, and the loose ends and dreamlike internal logic frustrate those who like their mysteries neat, this remains a chillingly persuasive vision of emotional hell.

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