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The End of the World is Bigger than Love

by Davina Bell 

Reviewed by Margaret McKay-Lowndes

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the world stopped turning? Would the sun hang motionless in the sky? Would the tides stop ebbing and flowing? Would survival be impossible? In The End  of the World is Bigger than Love Davina Bell considers these enormous questions in a deeply imaginative story that is beguiling, thought-provoking and utterly fascinating.

Summer and Winter are identical twins who have been in hiding on a remote island after their scientist father makes a discovery with the potential to destroy the world. In alternating narratives, the complex and twisted tale of  devastating disease, coupled with environmental disaster emerges in fragments and it is quickly apparent that the twins’ perspectives vary or indeed, clash. Armchair psychologists will recognise that some of the events of the twins’ lives have been so traumatic, that they are forced to hide behind made up stories rather than confront the grisly truth.

The story is dense with activity. The twins have lived very full lives, following their father all over the world from Tokyo to Belarus to New York and back again. On the island, they are joined by Edward (“the bear”) who captures Winter’s heart, much to the consternation of Summer. Love and jealousy are explored in depth as the characters make the best of their beautiful but remote location.

Their mother’s collection of classic literature allows references to the great works – To Kill a Mockingbird, Charlotte’s Web, The Outsiders are just a few of the novels the girls enjoy. As the story unfolds, twist follows twist, and there are times when you might question what is really happening (does Summer actually talk to a dying whale?) but ultimately, the reader is deeply invested in the survival of these two
extraordinary girls.

The two, while physical identical, are like yin and yang – opposite but complementary. Summer’s sardonic sense of humour overlays the narrative with a bitter-sweet tone which is at times hilarious, at others, heartbreaking. Winter’s vague musings provide a counterpoint to Summer’s ruthless practicality.

Throughout, the writing provides an opulent smorgasbord of vivid imagery, interesting metaphor, quirky similes and ‘gosh-darn’ it, peculiar turns of phrase to consistently delight and charm.

The End of the World is Bigger than Love is a story of pure imagination exquisitely told. Lovers of quality fiction will surely want to read this more than once.

Teaching Notes

Text Publishing 2020

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