Saturday, December 17, 2005

In the Shadow of the Ark by Anne Provoost

Re Jana and her family are marsh people who fish and build boats to make a living. Due to her mother's illness, they make the long trek into the desert to the land of the wanderers, who somewhat strangely are building a huge boat in the middle of the nowhere in preparation for a strange judgement that is supposed to be coming soon. Being wanderers, and people of the desert, they know very little about boat building so Re Jana's father is quickly engaged and provides his expert knowledge to the Builder and his sons. There are many people who are working on the huge boat, thinking that by participating on the building of the boat, they too will be saved when the time of judgement comes.

Re Jana herself has the gift of being able to find clean water, and healing hands that she uses to provide relief to the sons of the Builder, both very valuable skills. Soon she begins to fall in love with Ham, youngest son of Noah, and they start thinking of ways that Re Jana can be bought onto the ship when it is time.

The rains start, the waters rise, and the people realise that there was never any intention to take them onto the boat, that the cavernous hull is to be filled with animals and not people, and there are many scenes of desperation.

This is the dramatic story of the weeks and months that follow, as the rain transforms the earth and the people come to understand, and try to accept and live with the magnitude of the disaster. This is the story of one girl who stows away on the ark for love of Ham, Noah's son. This is her story of survival.

I have seen some reviews comparing this book to The Red Tent by Anita Diamond. I have to say that, having read The Red Tent not too long ago and loving it, for me there is no comparison.

I didn't feel that most of the characters were fully developed with the exception probably of Re Jana, her father and Ham. Some of the scenes were rather also rather simplistically developed, lacking depth and cohesion. Now this maybe because of the translation (Provoost is from Belgium) or it may be because the book is published as Young Adult fiction. I have read quite a bit of YA fiction this year, and they do seem to be simpler stories, but they still have a very readable quality to them.

I debated titling this post "Oh my goodness, I'm getting old" because it is completely surprising to me that this book can be classified as YA fiction. There are numerous references to sexual relations, both with women and men (including rape), references to drug taking, mercy killings, let alone the inevitable complete destruction of the world that comes with the telling of the story of Noah and his sons. Whilst the descriptions are not explicit, there is enough detail to realise what is going on. I realise that teenagers are not naive when it comes to these kinds of events, and that many teenages read books aimed at the adult market, but to have these kinds of scenes in a book that is published as Young Adult seems a little wrong to me. Maybe I am getting old and prudish, or just sounding like a mum because I am one, but I don't understand this.

Whilst all of these things bothered me and did hamper my appreciation of the book, I did mostly enjoy it.

Rating 3/5

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