The Red Children by Maggie Gee

I read this one because Bernadine Evaristo raved about it in a tweet a few weeks back, and I think she knows a good book when she’s it. Aside from that, I bloody loved the idea.

The Red Children is set in a future Britain where a pandemic (another one) has put a significant dent in the male population, and racism is seeing a resurgence (so when I say ‘future’, I probably mean ‘Monday week’).

The coastal town of Ramsgate struggles about its business in the slightly dystopian future; most of the people are decent and grieving, others are dipping a tentative toe into far-right wing nationalism.

And into this once-idyllic village come the Red People: refugees from an ecological disaster who just happen to be Neanderthals. …

Out of the gate, this is a great read. Probably my favourite book of the year so far. The characters are richly drawn, and the scene-setting is pitched just right, giving the reader plenty of room to exercise the imagination without feeling lost.

And a masterclass in poetic prose; every paragraph is a rich tapestry of words and emotion. At the same time, the book is surprisingly funny. Gee has a subtle sense of humour that adds a lightness and pace to the story.

The book is a slow-burner though; suspense slowly builds from chapter to chapter, as the reader is drawn towards the inevitable confrontation between the townspeople and the newcomers who’re ‘not like us’. You’re expecting redemption, but things didn’t turn out exactly as I thought they would. However, I wasn’t disappointed, just surprised.

If you’re looking for something poetic and a little out of the ordinary, the The Red People fits the bill.

Highly recommended.

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