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The Wall review

February 19, 2019

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The Wall review

John Lanchester’s previous novel, Capital, was an epic tale set in one street in London, and was
adapted into a successful BBC TV mini-series. This new dystopian novel, The Wall, is very different
in length, structure, tone and topic, but is just as memorable. Set some time in the future, it
explores current issues such as climate change, refugees, inequality and the legacy the older
generations are leaving to their children.

Kavanagh’s tale leads him through fear, joy, love and despair, as he comes to realise that
everything he knows about the Wall and the world is not as simple as he’d been led to believe.

The book is narrated by Kavanagh, who has just started a two-year stint patrolling the Wall. In his
unnamed country (it could be Britain), an environmental disaster known as The Change has
wreaked havoc, destroying the beaches. Elsewhere in the world, it’s been even more devastating,
leading to huge numbers of refugees, known as the Others, trying to get into the country. The Wall
has been built all along the coastline, and every young person must spend two years on duty
patrolling it as a Defender, as a kind of National Service. Kavanagh describes his arrival at the
Wall, and the toxic combination of incredible boredom and constant fear his duties entail.
He has contempt for his parents, and the older generation in general, as he blames them for the
situation the country, and indeed the world, is now in. His only hope in life is to somehow become
one of the Elite, who are privileged enough to occasionally be able to leave the country in the
aeroplanes he sometimes sees in the skies above. But if any Others manage to escape into the
country, it’s the Defenders who are blamed for the breach, and for every Other who gets in, a
Defender is put out to sea to become an Other themselves.

Kavanagh’s tale leads him through fear, joy, love and despair, as he comes to realise that
everything he knows about the Wall and the world is not as simple as he’d been led to believe. Can
he survive his life on the Wall and find a future for himself? This thought-provoking novel is all too
believable, and its timely story chimes with current affairs such as Brexit, Trump’s presidency and
global warming.

Written by Ruth, marketing 

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