Marcus Sedgwick: Floodland (2000)


Marcus Sedgwick has been on my radar for a while. I’ve seen more than one enthusiastic review of his books. He’s regularly nominated for awards and has won a few, notably the Branford Boase Award for first children’s book for Floodland. When you come to a writer who is as prolific as Marcus Sedgwick it’s hard to know where to start. Last year he even published a book for adults A Love Like Blood, that’s high on my TBR piles. I first wanted to read Midwinterblood but then decided to start with his first novel Floodland.

Floodland is set in the UK in the future. Most of the country is flooded, some of the higher regions building small islands. Food is scarce and people try to flee from the smaller islands to a larger part of the mainland. Zoe is left behind on the island of Norwich when her parents leave. During a moment of total chaos they boarded without making sure that she was really following them. Zoe’s been fighting for herself ever since. She’s a loner and most people leave her alone that’s why, when she discovers a boat, she’s able to hide it, and make it seaworthy again. One day she leaves the island, looking for the mainland. Instead of finding the mainland she’s stranded on an even smaller island than Norwich. Dooby, who is only a few years older than Zoe, is the leader of the people on that island. Food is even scarcer and so is shelter. Most people live in an old cathedral. Dooby confiscates her boat and Zoe’s forced to stay on this island on which people have turned into barbaric mobs, periodically overrun by other mobs who they torture and kill, if given a chance. Her only aim is to find her boat, flee and find the mainland and her parents.

I thought that the idea of Norwich being an island was pretty uncanny. I liked how this book was structured and divided into three parts “before”, “then” and “after”. Each part is subdivided into short chapters. At the beginning of every part and every chapter we find haunting wood carvings by Marcus Sedgwick.

Floodland is a short novel and so it may not be surprising that the writing is taut. There’s no superfluous word here. It all moves along at a steady pace and is very suspenseful.The middle part, which is the longest, was reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. It was also the part which carried the strongest message. There’s only one elderly person on that island and he makes Zoe understand how important it is to tell stories if humans want to keep their humanity.

The end felt a bit rushed but I still thought it was well done. Overall I enjoyed this adventurous story a great deal. Zoe’s a wonderful heroine and the world Marcus Sedgwick created felt realistic. There’s not too much backstory but we still understand it’s all a result of global warming. For children this may be a very emotional book because Zoe wonders until the end why her parents didn’t come back to find her. There’s one thing I didn’t like and that’s the idea that people turn into animals when they lose their humanity. I’m not keen on the dichotomy animal/human. The people in this book lose their compassion and their altruism because they are in a very precarious situation. They are cruel and depraved. That doesn’t make them animals. Animals don’t know cruelty.

If you’d like to find out more about Marcus Sedgwick here’s his website Marcus Sedgwick. It’s one of the most appealing writer’s websites I’ve come across. He also writes a blog where I found this quote that sums up his writing

I’m not a writer who tells you something five times. I usually say it just once, and if I say it any more in a first draft, my editor makes me take it out in a rewrite anyway. That’s one of the reasons that my books are sometimes shorter than other people’s. And that’s one of the reasons why I wish some people would read more slowly. Books are patient; you can afford to take your time when you’re reading for pleasure.

22 thoughts on “Marcus Sedgwick: Floodland (2000)

  1. I adore Sedgwick’s books (am literally just about to start reading his latest). I would really recommend Midwinterblood.

    • Thanks for telling me, Annabel.
      He’s so prolific. I’m looking foward to discover the others. Midwinterblood sounded really good, so does the new one. White Crow is another one I’m interested in.

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed this – I bought one of his books for a young friend of the family for Christmas (whose title of course I have now forgotten). As for Norwich being an island, it’s destined to happen. Mr Litlove found a map someone had concocted for what the East Coast of England would look like in 100 years or so…. put it this way, our house just outside of Cambridge would be a beachfront residence…. Very scary.

    • Extremely scary, I agree. I found it really uncanny and not too far-fetched as an idea.
      His writing is really taut. I’m sure I’ll read more of him. I’ve read quite a few post-apocalyptic books last yera and it was interesting to read one written for kids. I’m sure you’re young friend was happy aobut his gift.

    • It is, isn’t it? I’d love to have a site like that. I suppose it’s costly when you can’t do it yourself.
      He’s written a lot of books but so far only one title for growups. I hope it won’t be the same as with the Lauren Oliver book.

  3. Well done stories of a dark future have always drawn me in.

    Our justifiable concerns of climate change are now driving many of the contemporary ones.

    I agree with you n your point regarding animals. People do all sorts of bad things that are not animal like at all.

    • I absolutey love these books although I find themscary as well. I’m just reading Station Eleven now which has received a lot of praise.
      I think this comparison of depraved humans with animals is harmful to animals.

  4. Wonderful review, Caroline! I have seen Marcus Sedgwick’s books at the bookshop, but haven’t read any of his books yet. It looks like he likes words like ‘flood’ and ‘blood’ – most of the books of his that you have mentioned have one of these words in the title 🙂 I like the fact that this is a dystopian book about global warming written for younger readers. That is really wonderful. The woodcarvings by the author featured in the book sound so beautiful from your description. I loved what you said about people vs animals – “The people in this book lose their compassion and their altruism because they are in a very precarious situation. They are cruel and depraved. That doesn’t make them animals. Animals don’t know cruelty.” I hate it when I read a line describing how a person became an animal, as if implying that that was a bad thing. It is an insult to animals.

    Thanks for this wonderful review. I will keep an eye for this book.

    • Thanks, Vishy, glad you enjoyed it.
      I hate it when people comparing mean people to animals. It is insulting animals.
      The woodcarvings are wonderful. I tried to find some online but couldn’t and my camera card’s full at the moment or I would have posted some. I’ve seen people illustrate their own work but woodcarving isn’t all that frequent.
      HE’s got a series called Flood and Fang. 🙂 Yes, it seems he likes those double o’s. 🙂

  5. That’s an interesting review, and your comparison with The Lord of the Flies is intriguing (by the way, that book made me really uncomfortable). I agree with you, animals should not be compared with people, that bothers me as well.
    This sounds rather bleak though, except for that part about people needing stories, it feels like a ray of hope in this dark story.

    • Thanks, Delia.
      I’ve only seen the movie Lord of the Flies but it made me v ery uncomfortable as well. I will read some day.
      The comparison is not doing animals any service.
      The end is moderately hopeful.

  6. Not for me, but even so I think it’s an interesting premise. I tend to veer away from apocalyptic novels as I start thinking that all bets are off about the (depressing) future of the planet.

  7. Another one I think I need to add to my pile–it sounds really interesting. It reminds me a little of a YA novel I read when I was young called Z for Zachariah about a nuclear holocaust and a young girl is left alone when her family has gone for the day–she ends up having to fend for herself–she has survived in this valley…and then one day she sees a man on the horizon coming her way. Very well done and very atmospheric. It is a book I reread as an adult and it was just as good!

    • I have to look that up. I’m curious to see if it’s still avalaible.
      It’s a very short book, Floodland, and if you like it, tere’s a lot fmore where that came from. I’ve just ordered one of his YA thrillers. There’s often a gothic element in his books. Not in this one though.

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