Rthe first novel by osa Rankin-Gee, The last kings of Sark, explored the tense emotional consequences of an idyllic summer in which three young people rampage together on the small island in the English Channel. As two of the trio rush to get over the experience, Jude finds herself mired in the past, unable to let go.
Vividly attuned once again to the intoxicating sensations of those caught between adolescence and adulthood, Rankin-Gee’s second novel, Dreamland, is an equally fascinating coming-of-age story. But while in The last kings of Sark his characters withdrew from the larger world, this respite is not possible here. Jude was mourning the end of something almost impossibly intimate, but Dreamland faces much broader collective losses in the story of 16-year-old Chance, who discovers life and love as the world collapses around him.
Calling the novel dystopian is perhaps exaggerated, especially since the sociopolitical and ecological collapse seems to get closer every day, making it difficult to separate speculative conjecture from the myriad disorders of the present. Instead of, Dreamland is set in an instantly recognizable UK from the near future, just a few degrees away from ours – think Years and years.
We are in the seaside town of Margate, once refined but now run-down. This is an area that is already infused with a strange and singular psychology, slightly out of step with the rest of the country. 2002 by David Seabrook All the demons are here He described the Kentish coastline as a haven and a dead end for a motley and menacing band of eccentrics. “Planet Thanet” is how Chance explains his surroundings to a stranger; an increasingly isolated ecosystem in decline.
Across the country, heat waves are increasingly relentless, but Margate also has to deal with the immediate problem of rising sea levels. At high tide, the streets flood, evidence of the ocean’s inflow as it retreats again. The damp lobby of a high-rise building is strewn with debris from the deep: “mountains of wet sand. Broken shells and trash, all colors faded. Seaweed. “” Who needs Thailand, huh? “Jokes Chance.” We have all the sun, sand and tsunamis you could wish for here.
This may not be Britain as we know it, but much of what is described has already been in place – not just the climate crisis, but government policies displacing social tenants. “London was too expensive to be the future,” Chance’s mother explains to her and her brother JD when, in the backstory at the beginning of the novel, a non-governmental organization offers them cash to move to the coast. . London is “a hotbed, a bomb waiting to explode. That, and an island for rich Russians. ”In recent years, Margate has already hosted many local refugees.
Despite her high hopes, the new beginning Chance’s mother dreams of never fully materializes. She, like many others, struggles to find work, and anger at a government that has almost abandoned them begins to fester among the city’s residents. In the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, those with the resources to do so have long since fled; the only people left are those with nowhere else to go. When Chance falls in love with Franky, a middle-class Londoner who volunteers at a humanitarian project that runs food banks for the struggling local community, the gap year students doing good are like cockroaches, apparently still standing even at the end of the year. world – opens the possibility of a different kind of life. However, little does she know that she and Franky are caught up in something much bigger than themselves.
While Rankin-Gee’s crafty and nuanced world-building deserves applause, it’s this relationship that holds the novel together, in large part because it feels so real. She vividly captures the balance between ferocity and vulnerability as the two girls explore their growing desire; One minute they are greedy for each other, the next they are proceeding more cautiously. His is a great first love, blazing and furious amid poverty and pain, the perfect counterweight needed to make the novel sing. Dreamland it brings us face to face with much of what we are about to lose; however, he manages to convince us that his characters still have everything to live for.
Rosa Rankin-Gee’s Dreamland is a Scribner post (£ 14.99). To order a copy to go guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply.