Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Death of Grass

Title: The Death of Grass

Author: John Christopher

Number of pages: 208

Started: 1 November 2009

Finished: 4 November 2009

Opening words:

As sometimes happens, death healed a family rift.

When Hilda Custance was widowed in the early summer of 1939, she wrote, for the first time since her marriage thirteen years before, to her father. Their moos touched – hers longing for the hills of Westmorland after the grim seasons of London, and his of loneliness and the desire to see his only daughter again, and his unknown grandsons, before he died. The boys, who were away at school, had not been brought back for the funeral, and at the end of the summer term they returned to the small house at Richmond only for a night, before, with their mother, they travelled north. In the train, John, the younger boy, said “But why do we never have anything to do with Grandfather Beverley?” His mother looked out of the window at the tarnished grimy environs of London, wavering, as though with fatigue, in the heat of the day.
She said vaguely “It’s hard to now how these things happen. Quarrels begin, and neither person stops them, and they become silences, and nobody breaks them.”

Read the book here.

Plot summary:

At first the virus wiping out grass and crops is of little concern to John Custance. It has decimated Asia, causing mass starvation and riots, but Europe is safe and a counter-virus is expected any day. Except, it turns out, the governments have been lying to their people. When the deadly disease hits Britain they are left alone, and society starts to descend into barbarism. As John and his family try to make it across country to the safety of his brothers farm in a hidden valley, their humanity is tested to its very limits.

What I thought:

I enjoyed this book. I took a bit of time to warm to it, but by the end I thought it was really good. Then I re-read the beginning of the book and liked the beginning much more second time around.

The book tells the tale of a virus that wipes out all of the world’s grass, including any grass based crops, and focuses on a family’s flight from London and the government’s dastardly plans, and all the people they meet, or join up with them, along the way.

I wouldn’t rate it as highly as The Day of the Triffids, but it is still a good read and one that actually made me wonder how much we take for granted and what we would do if those things were taken away.


Anonymous said...

I just finished last night. Will be reviewing it in the next day or two.

I agree with you about the slow beginning, but, boy, the book picked up pace, and I just couldn't lap up the last seventy odd pages quickly enough. Considering it's a relatively short book, i thought that was commendable.

I was asking myself the same questions: would we resort to such barbarism when push came to shove?

Random Reflections said...

anothercookiecrumbles - When I sent back to the beginning, I realised that it really helped to set the book up in the right way and saw that it fitted much better than I had first expected.

As for your question, that is a hard one. I guess some of it comes down how important the instinct to survive is, whether as an individual or a group. That doesn't actually justify it, but it does perhaps help us to explain/ justify to ourselves why we do particular things.

Do you think the government's plan (assuming it was true) was an act of barbarism?

Anonymous said...

Yup - just because it's a democracy, the government shouldn't be allowed to choose who should live, and who should die... specially, when the act of ultimate cowardice is not being honest with the civilians, and deluding them with lies, for people like believing the easier thing.

Can I think of a better alternative? Nope... but, then again, I don't have all the facts, and I really really don't think I'm the kind of person who wouldn't think twice before lying to 50+ million people!!!

Random Reflections said...

anothercookiecumbles - I think at most points govenrments make decisions that they think is for the good of the people - although the public might not agree. We have to hope that most of them are not as serious as this one.

Sarah said...

Oh, I'm glad you liked it! The OH is reading Day of The Triffids pretty much right now, so I'm standing in line. As far as my memory goes I think I agree with you that the Triffids is better. I would defintiely score Triffids higher for inventiveness, detail, and sheer enjoyment value.

But Death of Grass might come out better in terms of the psychological content? Grim but convincing.

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - yes it was very good. I think the scenario in the Death of Grass is more likely to happen that the one in Triffids so from that point of view it is perhaps more concerning.

But I think The Day of the Triffids is such a fantastic book that I am find it hard to do it down in any way!