Title: The Night of the Flood
Author: Zoë Somerville
Genre: Literary Thriller
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication Date: 3rd September 2020
Her heart beat hard. There was a crazed beauty to the storm. It was almost miraculous, the way it took away the mess of life, sweeping all in its path…
No-one could have foreseen the changes the summer of 1952 would bring. Cramming for her final exams on her family’s farm on the Norfolk coast, Verity Frost feels trapped between past and present: the devotion of her childhood friend Arthur, just returned from National Service, and her strange new desire to escape.
When Verity meets Jack, a charismatic American pilot, he seems to offer the glamour and adventure she so craves, and Arthur becomes determined to uncover the dirt beneath his rival’s glossy sheen.
As summer turns to winter, a devastating storm hits the coast, flooding the land and altering everything in its path. In this new, watery landscape, Verity’s tangled web of secrets, lies and passion will bring about a crime that will change all their lives forever.
I’ve been looking forward to reading The Night of the Flood for a while because I’ve been hearing really good things about it and I’m pleased to report it was just as good as I’d hoped. The story follows a group of young adults a few years after the end of World War Two as they attempt to navigate their relationships and plans for the future. The uncertainty and secrecy of The Cold War coupled with the North Sea flood in 1953 creates a tornado of lies, passion, tension and tragedy which culminates in a shocking crescendo.
This is an incredibly well written novel which will completely draw readers into the orbit of these characters. I felt invested in their lives and relationships almost immediately which is an impressive feat. The time period is a particularly fascinating one, set in the strange after war years when the nuclear threat was an unknown quantity which no one really had concrete knowledge of. World War Two was still casting a long shadow in the community this book focusses on and these young people are caught between the painful past and uncertain future. Verity and her childhood friend Arthur have strong ties to each other which are severed in part by the arrival of the charismatic but enigmatic Jack, an American doing secretive work as a pilot in an airbase in Norfolk. Verity is caught between Arthur’s steadiness and Jack’s dangerous glamour. Once you add in Verity’s brother Peter and local girl Muriel to the mix there are several love triangles in The Night of the Flood. However I hesitate to call them that in the sense that this story feels deeper than a classic love triangle. These characters are all lost in some way and struggling with finding a place in this new world in a manner that really resonates. They all feel like such complex and fully realised people and I got completely caught up in this story as it gets closer and closer to the the flood we know is looming ominously.
This is a fantastic literary thriller of sorts which provides no easy answers to the complications of friendship and love. It encapsulates a time period and atmosphere which I think it is hard for people who didn’t live through it to truly grasp the nuance of. The Night of the Flood covers many different areas involving societal expectations, prejudice, class and the dangers of proprietary love. It is a brilliant debut and I will definitely be reading more from the talented Somerville. Highly recommended.
Thank you so much to Lauren Tavella at Head of Zeus. I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is my own honest opinion.