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It's Not the End of the World

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

Cover of It's Not the End of the World

Author: Geraldine McCaughrean

Publisher: OUP

Published in: 2004

Age Range: Pre Teens+

Period: Prehistoric

Setting: Noah's Flood

Genres:  AnimalGrowing-Up


Characters:

  • Noah, chosen by God to build an Ark for those few chosen to survive the flood and for representatives of each species of animal.
  • Timna, Noah's young daughter, overlooked as her three brothers take wives and gain their independence.
  • Japheth, Noah's youngest son, hardly adolescent, forced into a marriage with Zillah, abducted from her family. He is more thoughtful thatn his two older brothers Ham and Shem.
  • Kittim and his baby sister are rescued from the flood by Timna and Japheth and are kept hidden on the Ark.

Synopsis:

Noah and his family build an Ark and fill it with all kinds of animals in time for the flood of which, they believe, they are the only worthy survivors. Conditions become very difficult and when Timna rescues a boy and a baby from the flood, she half suspects him to be a demon, responsible from their misfortunes.

Notes:

General: The story of Noah and his family is seen through a lens of 21st-century realism. Where the original story glosses over the practical details and the tensions, this version highlights them. How could so many animals co-exist in such a small space? How could the family manage to survive, to get along with each other in those conditions? And what happened to everyone else?

Religion: All along, Noah is seen as a good man, guided by God: there's no suggestion of any other reason for his building the Ark against a totally unpredicted flood. But for all that, he's shown as naive, believing in a miracle which we knew to be sleight of hand, willing to sacrifice his own daughter when he believes her to be possessed. Towards the end we hear the outpouring of Noah's wife, dutifully quiet until then, but no longer able to tolerate her husband's behaviour in God's name: his refusal to save others than themselves; he refusal to accept that other survivors may be as worthy as themselves; the fact that God should suddenly wake up and decide to drown the world.

Characters: With the exception of Noah, the other characters are 21st century characters in an Old Testament setting. They are divided into two sets: the younger ones who see things clearly and who are compassionate and generous, and the older ones who seem to be interested in only one aspect of life each. Thus Noah himself is interested only in doing God's will, Ham in the engineering challenges which the Ark offers, Shem in his own importance and worthiness, Bashemath in her own health and that of her baby, and Sarai in her empty-headed thoughts. Timna, Japheth, Zillah and Kittim, on the other hand, are far less willing to accept the situation and Noah's explanations and want to find their own answers and solutions, without depending on their elders, their parents, or God.

The noise from the rain never lets up. We've lost track of night and day. Even if we were to go outside the deckhouse, ther is no variation in the day-round dark. The clouds are being herded overhead by howling winds, and they drop their rain in bursts that sound like cattle stampeding over the ship. It drives out all though, that noise. An idea no sooner forms itself than it's shredded by that incessant, drumming rain. What with the thunder and the sudden whipcracks of lightning, it is like living in the skull of a madman.

Tighter and tighter we have sealed the windows and door, to staunch the leaks, until there is no light inside except the glimmer from the fire. It's impossible to sleep for longer than a few mintes at a time, because of the cacophony of water. Thunder. Screaming. Trees crashing by. We nap whenever and wherever we can.

I almost prefer the lower decks — but for the smell and the screeching din and the danger and the flies. Feeding the beasts is an endless, exhausting, frightening job, forking out bales of hay, chopping fruit, skinning and butchering the carcasses. (When more than two arrived, Shem clubbed the surplus ones and stored their meat to feed the meat-eaters).

None of it seems to unnerve father: he must be waterproof against horror. He just has this unquenchable trust, this impregnable courage. Bashemath says he is an inspiration. At least she says so to him.

Monday 3rd January 2005