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A Post-Apocalyptic Tale of Human Survival.
Children of the Dust - Louise Lawrence
Member Name: Welshjellybean
Children of the Dust - Louise Lawrence
Advantages: Excellent structure, great characters,
Disadvantages: Political themes (for me), can be a heavy read for some
Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence is a novel that presents the lives of three generations of people living during, in the fallout from, and decades after a nuclear war comes to the UK.
This book was first recommended to me when I was twelve years old, having flown my way through Carrie's War, and evidently showing my teacher that I was developing a slight obsession with all things war. Truthfully at twelve, the themes and motifs in the book far exceeded any understanding I had (I even have the vocabularly book I used to keep and from this book I had to find out what facism was... even now I'm not convinced I know!!). Whilst much of the book passed me by whilst I was blissfully unaware, the more basic themes of survival and love resonated with me enough to cause me to seek out a copy of this book when I hit my early twenties, reminiscing for my childhood days.
Told in three parts, with each part focusing on the life of an individual, Children of the Dust tells the tale of survival in it's most basic form. It talks of the survival not only of people, but of hope, and of a future. It shows the lengths people can go to to ensure survival, and not only as an individual but as a race of people.
It explores the idea of evolution, both morally and physically, with some people becoming a superior race able to survive in a hostile, ultra violet environment, whilst others adapt to living underground, working hard on a losing quest to restore life the way it was before war broke out.
A darker, more serious book than many that I have read on the theme of war, it has a slightly political theme at its heart, exploring the changing role of power through the eyes of individuals and through the auspices of the government. Whilst these themes are present, and evident in the action that takes place, as an audience we also come to know each of the characters, and to see how they are affected by the war. We see those who make selfless decisions so that their young can survive, like Veronica, or those who make selfless decisions so that the human race can survive like Catherine, but we also meet those who, even under conflicting circumstances continue to make selfish decisions at the detriment of others.
The story is woven from generation to generation, each holding a link to the previous, through the tale of first Sarah, then Ophelia and then Simon. Having these contrasting versions of events allows the reader to see all viewpoints of the war and the ambiguity of opinion on the best way to move forward. Having characters with such differing perspectives is helpful in allowing the reader to explore these views themselves, although it's hard not to draw conclusions about many of the characters (and apparently mine were not very forgiving!) We see the progress of evolution through a very personal perspective.
The novel becomes pretty cyclical, with characters early in the book pitying those who were affected by the nuclear war, with their blind eyes and white downy fur, yet by the end of the book it is those who have been affected, and who have evolved pitying those who have lived hidden away from any change.
Whilst the themes can be pretty heavy, the action and characterisations are solid, and cause you to questions yourself throughout the book. Often billed as a classic, and present on many a school syllabus, this is a book that definitely lives up to being a classic. It has stood the test of time, and remains relevant even now, 27 years later.
Summary: Urges you to turn the page at every point of the book