Earlier this year, I read and enjoyed Sarah Perry’s fantastic historical novel The Essex Serpent. Perry’s debut novel After Me Comes The Flood was recommended to me, as very different, but also an interesting book, so I decided to give it a try.
The story follows John, who ends up through a simple mistake, staying in a house full of unusual strangers. John quickly passes the point where the mistake could be corrected, and finds himself in a tangled situation full of drama and misunderstandings. Tension runs high as a heatwave drags on, and secrets are uncovered within the house, as John is drawn towards several of the occupants through curiosity, friendship and desire. One occupant, Alex, is increasingly convinced that the dam of the neighbouring reservoir will break, and there will be a disastrous flood, and this is heightened by the anonymous letters he receives with their focus on drownings from the news. An inevitable storm is coming.
This story is hard to describe, the narrative is dream-like, shifting between first and third person perspectives, revealing lots and yet nothing all at the same time. Characters are difficult to get a handle on; what is each person’s motivation? Why does John stay in such a highly fraught situation when he could so easily leave? And yet, the characters are also all so very real and believable. Selfishness, desire, deceit, belief and fear motivate each of them in different ways.
I really enjoyed this book, but I imagine it might not be to everyone’s taste. It creates more questions than it answers and is one of those stories that leaves you thinking about it well after it has finished. It is atmospheric, dream-like and thought-provoking.