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July Book Club Review - Where the World Ends

17th July 2017

Prepare to lose yourself in another world entirely when you read this beautiful book.

Where the World Ends transports you back to the summer of 1727, where a group of men and boys are put ashore on a remote sea stac in the archipelago of St Kilda to harvest birds for food. Realistic from the very start, we soon see what a brutal existence it is for the fowlers just to provide the main island of Hirta with the supplies they need to survive. 

Based on a true story, there is no sense of fantasy in this novel, but its power comes in its shocking realism. We see the majority of the story through the eyes of Quilliam, one of the older boys sent to the stac, who knows the reality of a fowler much more than the shiny new boys on their first outing. He acts as almost a father figure to the younger boys and takes on the role of the moral compass of the group.

The initial excitement of being away from home soon wanes as the reality of life on the stac begins to lose its shine. Brutal weather conditions and a harsh natural environment soon makes the boys miss the comfort of home, while tensions grow through the negativity of some of the characters. When the ship fails to come to collect them, the mood soon turns desperate and initial rifts in the group grow ever wider.

There are small echoes of Lord of the Flies in the divisions that set in amongst the men and boys, and the battle for control that some seem desperate to fight. Yet the need to stay united remains stronger than the desire to be divided, and there is a real sense of community and the need to work together to survive.

Whilst the novel does not have a traditionally happy ending, there is a sense of resolution in its conclusion. The naive boys that left Hirta at the novel's beginning have grown and changed by their experiences and teach all of us a valuable lesson about appreciating the things that we have.

The novel leaves us with the following message: 'After the world ends, only music and love will survive', but it forgets the power of the written word. You can't help but be changed throughout the journey of this novel and the rise and fall of the sea that surrounds it.


Here's what our Organisers thought about it:

'It's very descriptive, made me wrinkle my nose at the smell of all the bird poop.' Heidi Thomas

'I love the description but I really cannot for the life of me picture how they survived and climbed about without falling to their death. All the characters are so vivid.' Nicky Powell

'I always like novels that take a bit of historic fact and then weave a story around it, I read it happily as a book for me.' Kate L'argent

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