3.5 out of 5 stars

In the UK set in the near future, the much smaller population is recovering from a flu pandemic. The countryside is more or less empty and the cities have absorbed most of the remaining people. One of the few left in the country is Jesse’s family, but they realise that they have to head to the city as they have no work left and head into London to begin a new life.

After her mother was killed in a terrorist incident, Isolde grew up in a children’s home. It made her tough, but happiness for her was mostly absent. She decides to exercise her right to see the man convicted for the crime in prison. After three decades of not knowing what happened, she learnt that it was not as she had been led to believe. She wants to learn more and starts to walk out to Suffolk to a small farmstead.

Lee is the third main character in this book. He is escaping from one of the White Towns where he has been a resident all his life. They have discovered that he is gay, or tainted as this group calls it. They want him back to inflict their cruel justice on him. He meets Isolde en route and they walk to Suffolk together. At this farmstead, the stories of these people come together briefly before unravelling once again.

She feels the space around her, stretches into it. She feels pressed thin as a membrane between earth and sky, between liquid and light.

There was a lot to like about this. The dystopia that she portrays after the flu pandemic feels utterly plausible. There are enclaves of white-only towns, a much-reduced population that is eking out a living in various small settlements around the country and centralised cities that are run by a strong authoritarian government. Allison has a very lyrical way of writing and I really liked her style. I kind of liked the chorus of the feral cows that are scattered liberally throughout the book, but I thought it was a little overdone. I did feel that the plot wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but it feels like a future that I would like to read more about other people who inhabit this place in another book.

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