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July 2023 Book of the Month

Category: Library, Monthly Book Reviews, News

The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros

This is an unusual book.  It’s a post-apocalyptic book without the action and zombies and it’s also the first ever translated book to win the prestigious Yoto Carnegie Book Award.   Translated from Welsh by the author herself, the book was first published in 2019, when it won the Welsh Book of the Year.

When we meet Dylan and his mother Rowenna, they are living a solitary life in rural North Wales.  Through alternate diary entries we learn that they are (possibly) the sole survivors of a disaster of worldwide catastrophic proportions.   They write their diary in a notebook they’ve called the Blue Book of Nebo which they found whilst looking through the empty houses in the nearby village of Nebo.  They’ve each promised not to read the other’s entries. 

The reader hears two distinct voices, the cynical mother and the hopeful young boy.  Dylan can’t remember much about life before The End.  Through him we begin to question society.  He struggles to understand when his Mum recalls ordering takeaways and ignoring passersby on the street.  We see that eventually, once they’ve learned to survive, they are freed from the constraints of the modern world and indeed find some kind of happiness in the changed world.

That’s not to say this is a happy book. It’s a moving and quietly heartbreaking book, with scenes of loss which some might find disturbing.  It’s perfectly paced and quite a short book at 146 pages.  This would be a good starting place if you’ve lost your reading stamina and want to start reading again. 

The most beautiful thing about this book is that it’s steeped in Welsh language and culture.  Once the catastrophe has occurred, something makes Rowenna raid the local library and take lots of books and it’s from these books that Dylan educates himself.  Their neighbour says “I suppose instinct makes you save that which your most in danger of losing”.  Rowenna was concerned not only with their physical survival but also with the preservation of their language and culture.  I’m delighted that we all get a chance to participate in that, by reading this thought-provoking book.

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