WIVENHOE by Samuel Fisher
With the climate crisis and geopolitical tensions hitting hyperdrive over the last couple of decades, I’ve pretty much lost track of the number of apocalypses I’ve read in contemporary fiction. A catastrophic event seems to be the accepted starting point of many books and it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. In many ways, Wivenhoe slots in with the masses. What sets it apart, though, is its complete disinterest in the apocalypse itself and the temporal proximity of the event.
Less than a year after snow began to blanket the earth, a young man lies dead on a riverbank, with another standing over him holding an axe. What follows is not a whodunnit or whydunnit, but a thoughtful exploration of the aftermath of murder in a society governed only by social contract. Factions form, complex and horrifying recent events are teased out, strangers come and go, justice goes unfulfilled. Only the odd reference to technology - mostly inaccessible - reminds you that this is not a fable from the 1700s. There’s an unsettling sense of yearning for traditional institutions of state underlying it all but, that aside, Wivenhoe is a moving and deeply interesting little book.
Wivenhoe by Samuel Fisher