Clade by James Bradley

May 13, 2018 - 6:43 pm No Comments

CLADE by James Bradley. Titan Books, London, UK. £7.99 paperback. 297 pages. ISBN: 9781785654145
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

The origin of the word novel, is something new. Certainly one hopes that each book will have a new story to tell but occasionally and author will try a new way of telling a story. Some experimental novels work, most don’t, so often tinkering with the approach to the story is the most that writers will do. Clade doesn’t conform to the usual pattern of a novel and can be regarded as a series of linked stories. The word clade, however, means ‘a group of organisms considered as having evolved from a common ancestor’. As such, it could be applied to an extended family.
The book opens with Adam in Antarctica observing the solstice while his wife in Sydney undergoing fertility treatment. I don’t know if the system is different in Australia, but the process described seemed very alien to that in the UK – without this couple being extremely wealthy. The science might be suspect but the relationship’s development and breakdown are sympathetically handled. The second part of the book feels disconnected from the first as there is no sense of how much time has passed as we don’t even know if the fertility treatment has been successful at that time. The main event surrounds an asthma attack incapacitating Adam and Ellie’s daughter Summer. In the background, the world is disintegrating with floods, food shortages and power-cuts. To some extent, this is a reflection of the immediate concerns of most of the world’s population. The irritating things are the inaccuracies such as food going off in a fridge enough for a rotten smell to permeate the house.
The third section, set ten years later, goes off at a tangent, telling the story of Maddie and Tom, stepmother and father to Ellie respectively. On its own is is a story about loss but seems forced into the structure of the whole book, and suffers from multiple point of view changes.
Although the book follows the path of members of a family as the world disintegrates – with no real attempt to address the issues. The characters put up with consequences rather than authorities attacking the problems. The ordinary person, is, to some extent, disconnected from the bigger picture but problems of a changing world seem to pass them by. The main problem with the book as a whole is that, while the individual stories are interesting, the whole lacks coherence.

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