Monday, 18 May 2015

Something Strange is happening in Finchley

The Girl with all the Gifts is not the type of book that I would usually read. Even back in my teenage days when I was addicted to horror, the novels I read were more likely to have their storylines based in some sort of reality, like The Rats, by James Herbert. In those days, I never read Science Fiction. 

So when I saw a tweet from Jen Campbell, about a new online book club I decided to take part, mainly because I didn't feel I was doing enough reading. I never thought that I would be reading a book about Zombies. Jen also did an interview with the author, Mike Carey where he talks about his writing and where the idea for The Girl came from.

I went to Muswell Hill Bookshop and looked for the book in the fiction section without really knowing what I was looking for apart from I knew it had a bright yellow cover and was about a young girl. When I couldn't find it I was very disappointed, so I asked behind the issue desk.
'Oh, that'll be in the Science Fiction Section,' said the assistant and went off down the shop to get it.

'Oh'. I murmured to her retreating back and wondered what on earth I was buying.

I wished she'd hurry up because I was hungry even though I'd only had my lunch half an hour before.

When I got outside the bookshop, I read the back cover again (I'd already seen it online). I went for a coffee, some sandwiches, some cake and chocolate and I was still hungry. I opened the book and began to read. Almost from the first page, where the reader meets ten year old Melanie who's in some sort of a prison and who is interested in fairy tales, I found myself caring about the character and I was hooked.

"Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh."

I continued reading. However, I was a bit concerned at my behaviour, just buying a book without really knowing what it was. When I got back to Finchley later that day, I noticed there was a strange smell in the air and I began to feel a bit dizzy. And when I got home, I was so hungry again. But nothing I ate satisfied me. I even found myself sleepwalking and eating food from the fridge and the cupboards. The only way I could forget the hunger was to read.

As I delved further into the narrative, I became quite concerned for my mental health. I felt as if I was in a film that was real, the descriptions pulled me into a post apocolyptic world where I desperately wanted to save Melanie and eat the zombies. I made myself stop reading past 6.00pm because the images in my head needed time to settle down. For the first half of the book, I went to sleep petrified. And all the time, I could hear strange mumblings outside my window at night.

The Girl with all the Gifts deals with a dystopian future in which most of humanity is wiped out by a fungal infection. It's a good plot though it is the characters that drive the story, through Finchley and other north London landmarks including the artsdepot overun with zombies.

Zombies! Why was I reading a book about zombies. There seems to be a lot of interest in Finchley about these strange creatures. Last week the local press contacted the festival organisers for a photoshoot but all they were really interested in was Mike Carey's book. I couldn't attend as I was at work. But the others went along and as our theme this year is supporting local libraries, they met outside Church End Library. Is it me or is there something a bit odd about the photograph? They seem to be lurching from side to side?

Murni who appears on the left, wanted me to be in the photo too and so she took some photos of Lindsay, myself, Mike and Robert a few days ago. But even these seem a little odd, perhaps it's because it was early in the morning and none of us looked our best. There is something happening in Finchley, the earth is rumbling, there's a funny smell in the air, we're all hungry and we're all buying books...the zombies are coming...

                       Lindsay       Rosie          Mike         Robert

Mike and Jen will be at this year's Finchley Literary Festival. Mike will be discussing The Girl with all the Gifts, Wednesday 20th May 7.00pm and Jen will be discussing her latest book The Bookshop Book on Thursday 21st May 6.00pm at Friern Barnet Community Library

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