A dystopian psychodrama that packs a punch…

I Have Waited, and You Have Come by Martine McDonagh

Set in a near future where global warming has wreaked Mother Nature’s revenge on the Earth and made large parts of the globe uninhabitable due to rising water levels, Rachel lives alone in a old mill in the Yorkshire Dales. Jacob used to live with her but he left. Rachel still keeps his study as he left it though, as if he might walk through the door again one day.

Without Jacob, Rachel survives, taking no joy from life. Rachel grows vegetables, keeps chickens and takes more care of them than herself. She had wanted children, but Jacob said they wouldn’t survive being brought into this world and persuaded her it was a bad thing – she can’t help being broody though at her age. She used to be an artist, but that’s fallen by the wayside too.It’s an effort to do anything, and her nearest neighbours are a short trek away. She prefers to keep to herself, remaining hidden within the walled compound of the mill except for her visits to the market run by Noah…

I duck into my favourite doorway, which I use as a lookout to check the coast is clear before going down to the market. Today of all days it is important I have Noah to myself because what I am about to do is something I would once have considered rash.
An intense, yellow, off-kilter stare from the opposite doorway jolts me back into the present. I step forward, whooshing air through my front teeth, and stretch out a hand to attract the attention of the mange-ridden but still charismatic ginger cat. But he fancies himself as a sphinx too disgusted with humanity to even acknowledge my existence. I straighten up and disguise my intimidation by fumbling in my jacket pocket for the scrap of paper I put there; unfold it to check its eight-number inscription is still legible: Rachel. I refold it and pin it to my palm with my fingernails.
Reassured now that Noah is alone, I step out into the precinct. Hel-lo. One syllable per footstep, I rehearse my grand entrance.

Noah is the only man Rachel knows, and she’s plucking up courage to ask him out. Meanwhile a new man is on the scene – Jez White.  He suddenly starts cropping up when she expected to see Noah. She begins to feel as if she is being watched, or is she getting paranoid?  She needs to find out more about Jez White.

This novel manages to combine the nightmare of a post environmental apocalypse with a psychological thriller and throws in a few overtones of Margaret Atwood’s classic The Handmaid’s Tale for good measure.  Rachel being an outsider and aloner, her refusal to want to belong to any of the remaining isolated communities, makes her tough yet fragile. You aren’t quite sure how reliable she is as the narrator, and the growing sense of unease as the story progresses adds to the tension.

She is a survivor though, and that thought inevitably led me back to a favourite TV series of mine from the 1970s – Terry Nation’s Survivors, (the original, not the more recent TV remake). In this series, a killer flu epidemic wiped out 95% of mankind, leaving the remainder to fight it out, keep the species going, and impose a new world order.

McDonagh’s novel is a fine example of the spec fiction genre, the changed world she has created seems eerily real. I enjoyed reading it very much. At the moment, it is her only novel, but I do hope she publishes more.  (8.5/10)

* * * * *
My copy was sent by the publisher – thank you.
I Have Waited, and You Have Come by Martine McDonagh. Myriad Editions paperback 2012. Originally published 2006. 181 pages incl Author Q&A.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Survivors – Series 1-3 Box Set [DVD] [1975]

10 thoughts on “A dystopian psychodrama that packs a punch…

  1. Col says:

    Enjoyed your review. This sounds good – and as you have compared it to the old Survivors series on TV which I enjoyed, I’m going to add this to my what next list!

    • gaskella says:

      Rachel’s world does feel like that in Survivors – which I loved (I had a bit of a crush on Greg). The remake they did the other year was weak in comparison.

    • gaskella says:

      Blakes 7 – Wobbly cardboard spaceship sets, Avon and Servalan – classic baddies. Loved it! Thanks for reminding me Victoria.

  2. Alex says:

    I seem to have been reading about a number of new dystopian, post apocalyptic novels recently which takes me back to when I first started teaching Children’s Literature in the 1970s and there was a spate of them for young adults. It’s interesting how literary fashions come around in this way. I’m sure a sociologist would have a great time explaining what the similarities are between then and now which lead to the phenomenon.

    By the way, also a great Blakes 7 fan.

  3. gaskella says:

    Alex – I’d love to know which 70s YA books you’re referring to. I read 1984, Brave New World, Triffids & Chrysalids at school as a teenager in the 1970s and loved them – they got me into SF&F in a big way, but if there were some others I could have read then but haven’t, I’d love to read them now …

    • Sophia @ Page Plucker says:

      Brother in the Land and Z for Zachariah would have been around then, I think. Both written about the aftermath of nuclear war and with teenage protagonists. The bleakest nuclear war book I ever read was James Herbert’s Domain, which is part of his Rats trilogy (oh, the things I read when I was a teenager!), but which was much scarier in its portrayal of nuclear catastrophe than it was for the furry flesh eaters.

      This book sounds right up my street; it’s nice to see a modern dystopia set in the UK for a change. One for the wishlist!

Leave a Reply