“You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built in the human plan. We come with it.” –Margaret Atwood
Imagine a world where bookshops sell nothing but biographies and factual books. A world where not only is writing fiction banned, but reading it is forbidden too, even as bedtime stories to children, and to do so means breaking the law, which in turn equates to consequences. Devastating consequences in some instances.
This is the nightmare world of End of Story.
Set in the year 2035, this dystopian novel centres around Fern Dostoy, a former writer. From the outset it’s obvious she is grieving, and why wouldn’t she be. Once an award winning, critically acclaimed author, Fern is now regarded, since writing fiction is banned, as a criminal. Socially isolated, she earns her living as a hospital cleaner. However, a covert meeting with a friend and former writer leads her to a secret group, which she becomes a member of, reading bedtime stories to children via a banned phoneline. One regular caller, a boy called Hunter, captures her heart. Sadly though, for Fern, government officials are closing in on her.
When I heard about this book, which is released later this week, I was intrigued, both by the blurb and the book’s striking cover. However, having read several books by the author under her other pen name, Louise Beech, I was also slightly apprehensive. Yes, her books are, as the author herself says, genre fluid, but a dystopian novel seemed like a huge leap. Could she pull it off, I wondered. I had nothing to worry about. Making clever use of embedded narrative, or a story within a story, End of Story is a taut thriller with characters that are both heartbreakingly, and in some instances frighteningly real, and the twist at the end left me bereft, if not a little relieved. A remarkable, thought-provoking story that will stay with me for a long time.