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After Me Comes the Flood


After Me Comes the Flood

Let me say up front that I expected AFTER ME COMES THE FLOOD to be a horror novel, but it turned out to be something quite different. I was disappointed as a result, which is a shame because what Sarah Perry has given us is an elaborately constructed, atmospheric work that builds slowly to a haunting conclusion and is worth reading.

This is very much a character-driven work on a couple of different levels. The story is told in part through the narrative of John Cole, a London bookshop owner who one day decides to close up for an indeterminate period and visit his brother who lives near the Norfolk coast. He carries a faint air of dissatisfaction with him, influenced in part by a drought that has affected the area for several weeks. He sets out without a map or any other directions and soon finds himself somewhat, though not entirely, lost. He then begins experiencing car trouble when he happens upon a large and isolated house.

" elaborately constructed, atmospheric work that builds slowly to a haunting conclusion and is worth reading."

A woman who is a total stranger greets him by name and lets him in. Cole finds a varied group of people inside who are seated for dinner, and he is immediately invited to partake in it. They also appear to be expecting him. He finds out soon enough that they think he’s Jon Coules, but by the time he makes the discovery, he has become ensconced in the group. He also learns that Coules has been delayed but will be arriving within a week.

Cole makes up his mind to quietly slip away but does not quite do so, in part because he begins to form relationships --- and, in one case, an attraction --- with his housemates. He gradually learns how this dissimilar group of individuals happened to come together. There is also an enigmatic name --- “Eadwacer” --- that is engraved here and there on the premises and seems to cause distress to some of those assembled. The novel proceeds through each day of the week when Cole is present, until a sudden crisis brings the inhabitants together with a purpose, as some (though not all) of the issues raised in the story are resolved.

Ultimately, there is a dreamlike element that affects the characters as well as the reader. That said, what occurs here --- a stranger stumbles into a situation and becomes an extended part of it --- is something that many of us have experienced, with events influenced one way or another as a result. This makes Perry’s story even more unsettling. Again, AFTER ME COMES THE FLOOD may not be what I expected, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading and enjoying this carefully crafted work.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 17, 2020

After Me Comes the Flood
by Sarah Perry

  • Publication Date: March 17, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Gothic, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Custom House
  • ISBN-10: 0062666401
  • ISBN-13: 9780062666406