A very different entry in our lists, this novel is devoid of much of the horror, or drama, that pervades most post-apocalyptic fiction, focused more on the development of childhood emotions and the family lives of ordinary people affected by a worldwide cataclysm. The Age of Miracles is a light read, with all the hallmarks of pulp book-club entertainment, though it sets its simple tale of an awkward girl’s advance into adolescence against a dramatically altering world, spiralling towards the apocalypse.
What’s The Age of Miracles all about
As she starts a new year at school, young Julia loses her only friend and becomes increasingly introverted and segregated from the more popular children. Her parents seem to be bickering and she has a hopeless high-school crush. All taking place as the Earth starts to slow down. Days grow longer, and society divides as some people stick to daylight hours and others follow the traditional clock. Crops start to fail, the sun becomes dangerous. And Julia still can’t talk to the boy she likes. Family complications and neighbourhood bullying are the drivers of this plot: the ‘slowing’, as it is called, is merely a background detail that makes everything that little bit more troubling for poor Julia.
Why read The Age of Miracles
Unlike most apocalyptic fiction, there’s no real sense of danger here. This is a very slow-moving apocalypse (we’re reminded a few times in the tale that Julia is telling us this from many years in the future). The peril does not drive unlikely friends together, or break down the walls of civilisation. In fact, it’s very much life as normal. This book, then, is there to appeal to those looking for a lighter interpretation of an inevitable end – a wholly different approach to the approaching crises, as seen through the simple eyes of a young girl, in her own world that just keeps going. It’s an interesting twist on the genre, showing how insecurities and relationships remain important in the face of a world-changing event. And some of those emotional insights are touching, some of the details poignant. Read it for an affecting account of childhood – and the persistence of human emotions. Just don’t expect high-brow literature or the drama of a survival story.