Author(s): Megan Hunter
Film rights sold to Benedict Cumberbatch's production company, SunnyMarch.The End We Start From is a powerful vision of the future that is utterly unforgettable.'Utterly brilliant' Nathan Filer, author of The Shock of the Fall 'Engrossing, compelling' Naomi Alderman, author of The PowerIn the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z's small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds. This is a story of new motherhood in a terrifying setting: a familiar world made dangerous and unstable, its people forced to become refugees. Startlingly beautiful, Megan Hunter's The End We Start From is a gripping novel that paints an imagined future as realistic as it is frightening. And yet, though the country is falling apart around them, this family's world - of new life and new hope - sings with love.
As her waters break, the water rises. London is flooding and a young mother is about to give birth. Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From is a mesmerising and poetic novel in the vein of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, yet it is quieter and more illuminating. Sparse and brilliant sentences and thought pieces punctuate the pages, each word vital and necessary. Hunter has taken a journey and laid bare its essence and emotional pinpoints. We only know the family through the eyes of the mother - she is ever present in our consciousness - and those around her are known by their capital letter only, R (her partner), Z (her child), R’s parents N & G. Each moment is a struggle. Leaving London, finding safe roads, arriving in the countryside to the short-lived refuge at N &G’s home. Food and supplies are running out, and a visit to the nearest town brings only disaster. And the waters continue to rise, sending people further north across borders and into foreign territory, to refugee camps where conditions are far from ideal but camaraderie is useful for a new mother and her babe. Hunter looks us in the eye and, through her characters, contemplates the choices that people make in a crisis, the alliances they build despite fear and mistrust, the risks they will take to survive as well as the psychological patterns that play out - behaviours that defy rationality but express an innate necessity for self-determination. When R leaves the camp intent on finding better solutions, he is as much running away as he is securing his sanity. The need to be alone and uncrowded by humanity is paramount. Our narrator moves herself onward, determined to find safety and tranquility for herself and her child despite the danger of permanently losing contact with R. She hopes she is leaving enough clues - even when those clues are little more than stating her existence to herself and the broken landscape around her. This is a world that doesn’t stretch too far from reality - climate will (and does already) alter how we live on the earth and we will increasingly see the movement of people due to extreme weather. This novella could be described as Cli-fi (Climate science fiction), but at its nub it is a book about love and connection, about how humanity endures and what we can overcome even when it alters us irrevocably. At the start of the book, Hunter has chosen to quote from T.S.Eliot:
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning,
The end is where we start from.
This leads you into the first chapters and from there you will not want to leave until you get to the end - the new beginning. Hunter’s language is evocative, and her observations prescient. Delicate, precise and memorable, this is a novella to be immersed in.
For fans of Station Eleven, an extraordinary story of motherhood in a world changed beyond recognition.
The End We Start From is strange and powerful, and very apt for these uncertain times. I was moved, terrified, uplifted - sometimes all three at once. It takes skill to manage that, and Hunter has a poet's understanding of how to make each word count. -- Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With a Pearl Earring The End We Start From is a beautifully spare, haunting meditation on the persistence of life after catastrophe. I loved it. -- Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven A shot of distilled story . . . engrossing, compelling and finally hopeful -- Naomi Alderman, author of The Power, winner of the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction I can't remember ever having read a novel quite as sparing or as daring as Megan Hunter's The End We Start From, or one that delivers so mighty an impact from such delicate materials. It is a moving, wistful and compelling debut. -- Jim Crace, author of Harvest An exceptional, alarming and beautiful book, which still echoes months after I finished reading it. Megan Hunter is a writer of unnerving power. -- Evie Wyld, author of All the Birds, Singing I'll be recommending this book for years to come. Utterly brilliant, hugely important. Here's the thing: it's perfect. -- Nathan Filer, author of Costa Prize-winning The Shock of the Fall Extraordinary. Megan Hunter's prose is exquisite, her depiction of a world descending into chaos is frighteningly real, and yet, it is her portrayal of motherhood - that tender-terrifying experience of bringing a child into a world - that has remained with me. The End We Start From is an incredible, original exploration of all that beauty, boredom and bewilderment. I read it in one sitting, and was deeply moved. -- Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites and The Good People The End We Start From is relentlessly, achingly personal. Hunter reminds us that disasters are rarely experienced in panorama. Instead, we live bone-deep inside our narrator. This book is fierce, sorrowful, and spiked with moments of bright joy. -- Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You The End We Start From is so good and clever: a beautiful, timely book about survival (both domestic and global) shot through with hope and humanity -- Lisa Owens, author of Not Working Beautiful . . . Water isn't the thing here, love is. And how we survive as the level of love rises -- Cynan Jones, author of The Dig and The Cove Exceptional, stunning. I devoured it -- Megan Bradbury, author of Everyone is Watching A dystopia that feels utterly convincing as our narrator gives birth to her son in a London under threat of advancing flood waters. She lives in the gulp zone so must head off into a familiar territory that has become terrifying in search of shelter and safety. This slender take on new motherhood has stayed with me - not least in making me think about the UK as a place to flee from rather than to, and to imagine Londoners turned refugees. -- Cathy Rentzenbrink * Stylist * Spellbinding . . . a debut [that] packs a punch that belies its brevity, with the author's background in poetry shining through . . . The End We Start From is a slender novel, but more profoundly moving than novels six times as long. It is perfectly balanced between fear and wonder. The world around them may be falling apart in the most extraordinary way, but ordinary life goes on and, as Hunter makes us understand, what a beautiful life it is. * The Bookseller * Powerful . . . an uplifting celebration of the reality of motherhood in the face of terrifying global disaster * Daily Mail * I held my breath reading this beautiful and timely novel. With precise yet lyrical language Megan Hunter gets to the centre of who we are, where we are, and why it matters. The End We Start From is a work of art -- Christie Watson, author of Tiny Sunbirds Far Away This debut is a story of a new mother and her baby who are turned into refugees after a mysterious environmental crisis. The End We Start From is a relevant story of our times which shrewdly ponders the meaning of survival and humanity in desperate times * Wales Arts Review * Startling . . . beautiful and insightful. Everyone who reads this will come away feeling renewed * Elle Magazine * Megan Hunter's slender, startling debut shimmers with light, even as the novel heads into dark territory . . . tender and profound -- Psychologies Book of the Month Extraordinary . . . The End We Start From is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, in that it shares the same narrative detachment, and the same precise poetry. It is of course told from the perspective of a mother, rather than a father, and is set in a world that is only beginning to fall into chaos. And in the midst of it all, each parent cradles their child, enchanted by their breathing. "Sometimes he sleeps so quietly it seems that he has gone." Megan Hunter's remarkable debut novel feels like the other half of the story * Financial Times * In a future London, a mysterious environmental crisis is causing flooding. On the day a woman gives birth to her first child, Z, her home and the city is submerged, and she and her husband R are forced to leave in search of safety. In a scant 127 pages, Megan Hunter creates a powerful and painful story of love and endurance, and of the experiences of being a mother and a refugee * Stylist * A haunting dystopian tale unlike any you've read before. In the aftermath of an environmental disaster, London is submerged by floodwater and the narrator, who remains unnamed, is forced to flee with her newborn baby. Despite the world as they know it crumbling around them, mother and son grow and thrive in this dangerous new Britain, where they've been recast as refugees. Poetic, precise, and surprisingly full of warmth, this is a beautiful story about the first months of motherhood and the places where hope springs, even in the darkest of times * AnOther * Brilliant . . . Hunter traces - with expert precision and such lyricism - who we are when life is minimised . . . an echo of Jenny Offill's Dept of Speculation . . . a visceral, poetic confession -- Sinead Gleeson * Irish Times * Fans of Station Eleven will love this. * Red magazine * The End We Start From is an effective, unusual and ambitious debut, which keeps the reader pinned to the page * Guardian * Set in a post-apocalyptic Britain, Megan Hunter's debut is lyrical, uplifting and unmissable * Stylist * A stunning tale of motherhood. Megan has crafted a striking and frighteningly real story of a family fighting for survival that will make everyone stop and think about what kind of planet we are leaving behind for our children * Benedict Cumberbatch * Strange and haunting . . . This isn't a novel in which exposition is a problem; it's more Virginia Woolf does cli-fi . . . Good news then that film rights have already been snapped up, by Benedict Cumberbatch's production company SunnyMarch and Hera Pictures. Let's just hope they do it justice; the dystopian elements are the easy sell, the beating heart of this tender and tremendous story is without doubt Hunter's portrait of early motherhood, an all-encompassing world of its own * Independent * Megan Hunter uses words sparingly. In her startlingly poetic debut, The End We Start From, she even rations her letters. She calls her characters R and Z and each paragraph is only a sentence or two long. Hunter tangles the delight and disorientation of new motherhood with scenes of societal collapse. As everything seems to be ending, as London floods, a new life begins, hot and pink and hungry. Hunter writes with delicacy and precision; her imagery is pearlescent in places. It's a sliver of a novel, but it shimmers. * Observer * Natural disasters and climate-related catastrophes might make for a compelling setting, but to really catch a reader's interest, you need to have the personal touch. And this is a novel that takes that principle down to its sparsest, simplest best, focusing on one woman and her child through a year of turmoil . . . best read in one sitting to fully absorb the haunting, brutal yet loving atmosphere of the narrator's journey . . . does a great job of capturing the intensity of early parenthood . . . a tale of survival in extreme conditions * SFX * Hunter's spare, drumskin-tight prose zings off the page, and ingenious descriptions abound . . . It may only consist of 127 pages of impressionistic, staccato sentences, but this is a book of wide horizons and big ideas, and it's no surprise that Benedict Cumberbatch's company have just acquired movie rights. For Hunter the future looks very bright indeed. * Scotland on Sunday * A story of sheer catastrophe, peppered with endearing experiences and milestones of new motherhood. The element which defines this short piece of dystopian fiction is the unique, elegant writing style . . . The End We Start From is beautiful, thought-provoking and most of all, hauntingly believable. It is a tale of hope at a time when the country truly needs it. A stunning debut. * Manchester Evening News *
Megan Hunter was born in Manchester in 1984, and now lives in Cambridge with her young family. She has a BA in English Literature from Sussex University, and an MPhil in English Literature: Criticism and Culture from Jesus College, Cambridge. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.