The Wall by John Lanchester

40180117

“They drum that into you: discipline trumps courage. In a fight, the people who win are the ones who do what they’re told. It’s not like it is in films. Don’t be brave, just do what you’re told.”

John Lanchester

Synopsis: Ravaged by the Change, an island nation in a time very like our own has built the Wall—an enormous concrete barrier around its entire border. Joseph Kavanagh, a new Defender, has one task: to protect his section of the Wall from the Others, the desperate souls who are trapped amid the rising seas outside and attack constantly. Failure will result in death or a fate perhaps worse: being put to sea and made an Other himself. Beset by cold, loneliness, and fear, Kavanagh tries to fulfill his duties to his demanding Captain and Sergeant, even as he grows closer to his fellow Defenders. And then the Others attack. . . .


The Wall is about a world where water-levels have been rising, which means that a lot of land has disappeared and people are desperately seeking vast land under their feet. The Others, which is everyone outside the walls living on the sea, will try anything to get to the other side of the wall and have a chance of a life. Kavanagh is put on the wall to serve his mandatory two years of guarding the wall as a Defender. It’s cold and the wind cuts into his skin, while he has to keep an eye out on sea at all times to spot the Others when they want to try and get over the wall.

A large part of the book consists of the wall. The small, secluded life that’s spend on an endless wall. This part on the wall might seem tedious to get through, though it perfectly shows how it can make you a little crazy to only experience this one little environment. The story went in a different direction on the right time, when I had the feeling that there was nothing more to talk about on the wall.

The characters remain relatively closed to the reader, not getting to know them well. Even the main character didn’t open up much towards the reader, making the story even more secluded. The lack of information about the characters made me wonder what everyone would be like when not on the wall. One interesting fact is that the men/women ratio is 50/50, meaning that a large part of the people we meet on the wall might be a complete different person than we thought. We experience a couple of weeks off, where Kavanagh goes on a trip with his fellow Defenders from the wall, which is where we get to know the most about some of the characters.

The book shows us how inhumane a society kan be. The decision of building a wall around the island, not to keep the water out, but to keep people out is quite a brutal decision to make. People are kept out, just because they’ve been living at the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead of thinking about a solution, everyone is left to die. The older generation who caused this world, according to Kavanagh, are being ignorant and let their children suffer from it.

There were a lot of open ends and missing information after finishing this book. I was curious about the world outside of the wall. Are there any other continents/countries that didn’t disappear, and how to they deal with the people that lost their home and are on sea? What’s going to happen to Hifa and Kavanagh? The reader doesn’t get to know more than the main character Kavanagh does. Which makes the book good, but also frustrating as I want to know more.

I started this book with mixed feelings. There were quite a few people that didn’t rate the book high and I was anxious that I wasn’t going to like it as well. In the end I found this book something to think about. What are we doing to our world today and what trouble are we causing our next generations by the way we treat the world.

I gave this book 4/5 stars

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