Not the End of the World

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Review

Timna, 14-year-old daughter of Noah, tells what really happened to her family during the endless days and nights in the Ark, while the world all around them turned to water.

She tells of her brother Shem, whose religious zealotry soon turns to megalomania; his wife, Bashemath, whose eye is fixed firmly on her place in history; Ham, good at carpentry but little else; endlessly chattering Sarai; sensitive Japhet, troubled by the plight of the animals on board; and Zillah, kidnapped and forced to marry Japhet.

All are affected, both physically and mentally, by the filthy, claustrophic conditions. Some retreat into their faith, others begin to question it. Timna, seeing the chance to rescue a stranded boy and a baby, struggles to reconcile the conflict between her instinct to help them and Noah's command from God to abandon them to their fate.

Along with the people, of course, are the animals, some of whom tell their own story: a wildebeest fears for her unborn calf, a lion contemplates its strange new hunting ground. Beautifully descriptive and often disturbing, Not the End of the World offers a thought- provoking version of the biblical tale, raising serious ethical and moral questions about religion and about man's relationship to animals and to each other.

In telling the story from this perspective, McCaughrean suggests, perhaps controversially, that the answers lie in a kind of compassionate humanism rather than in adherence to religious doctrine.

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