Thursday 3rd September has been well documented as a stella day in publishing, with over 600 new titles hitting the bookshelves. With that number of reading matter around it could be easy for a book to get lost. But I am here to tell you that one book you don’t want to miss out on is the fabulous debut by Zoe Somerville, The Night of the Flood. This book has everything!
Set in the early 1950’s on the North Norfolk Coast, there is a heady sense of change and tension from the off. Verity Frost is a young woman grieving her mother’s death; a death officially logged as an accident but silently accepted as suicide. Her father is cocooned in his own grief and her brother, Peter is struggling to keep their once prosperous farm afloat.
Arthur, a childhood friend and ex evacuee has just returned from his National Service and is looking to make his mark on the world. Trying to pull himself away from his ailing mother and her shop, he has dreams of a career in journalism and marriage to Verity. Verity herself is straining at the leash of her own life, working feverishly to secure a place at Oxford. The social gulf between the pair is wide and their own ambitions seem to be at odds with their relationship.
Into this world that seems to be crushing all three young people; Verity, Arthur and Peter, bursts Jack. A charismatic American airman, based at the rather mysterious US airforce base outside of the village. All three are drawn to and equally horrified by his dominant presence; a presence which will change their world forever.
The US Base is the site of much speculation and intrigue. Arthur in particular is suspicious of what maybe happening there and sets out to expose it’s secrets. Aware that Jack is a threat to his own personal happiness with Verity, he allows this to feed a wider threat, encompassing the base as a whole.
Tensions increase throughout the novel, driven forward by the atmospheric sense of time and place. There is a feeling of change, of a post war world that is shifting on an axis, unsettling those within it, forcing things and people to change too. From the failure of the farm, to the arrival of the Americans, nothing in this coastal town is quite the same.
The real life and devastating North Sea Flood provides the flash point for the novel. Both as a catalyst and a climax which takes everyone’s lives to a point of no return.
The Night of The Flood is a stunning debut. A novel with pace, atmosphere and a true sense of character. It has important things to say about social change within Britain, particularly in relation to women and the class structure. Verity, for instance, is an intelligent women attempting to resist being trapped in a middle class role of social expectation and domesticity, a role that may well have killed her beautiful, talented mother. This is the kind of novel that pushes you to learn more about the events and circumstances that frame it’s narrative. This novel should be winking at you from September’s mammoth publication lists like a jewel. I am hugely grateful to Lauren Tavella at Head of Zeus for my proof copy, thank you.