My book review of 'The Blue Book of Nebo' by Manon Steffan Ros
The time is the near future. A catastrophic event has destroyed 21st century life. There is no electricity, people have disappeared or died in their beds. Elements of the natural world may or may not be toxic.
Dylan and his mother have survived The End, when what they understood as normal life stopped.
It happened in 2018, when Dylan was six. He's 14 now. He and his mother live on the hilltop above the village of Nebo in north-west Wales. They seem to have come to terms with their existence. They've learned new skills while also reverting to old ways, in order to get by.
When she forages abandoned properties, mam collects books for them to read, piling them into the car. "I drove home with the smell of paper distracting me from my anxiety," she writes, "the weight of the words like a family in my back seat".
She includes Welsh books in her haul, even though she doesn't speak the language. She recalls "I suppose instinct makes you save that which you're most in danger of losing".
On another occasion, she discovers a blue notebook and on the blank pages, she and Dylan are now recording their memories, their daily observations and their hopes for the future. They take turns to write and have vowed not to read each other's entries.
As Dylan grows up, it's clear that the dynamics between the pair have changed. They are surviving, and supporting each other, but what does the future have in store?
This is so sparsely written, every word, every sentence, every paragraph so beautifully and carefully crafted. It was originally written in Welsh, published in 2018, before the global pandemic and although it speaks to all that we have experienced in recent times, it is not a grim or bleak tale. It's stunning. I reached the final page and immediately turned back to the beginning. Amazing.