Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Apocalyptic style stories are usually quite sudden and dramatic. In The Day of the Triffids, most of the world's population went blind overnight. In The Day After Tomorrow, the climate shift is forecast to happen in 100 years and starts happening within half an hour of the film's opening credits. People rush out and clear shelves in supermarkets, buy guns, start looting - chaos ensues. 

Debut Author Karen Thompson Walker, however, takes a different approach in The Age of Miracles - a book that is hauntingly realistic in its catastrophe because it happens so gradually. One day, there are 24 hours in a day, then suddenly people notice there aren't. The days have slowly been getting longer because, people realise, Earth's rotational pull has been slowing down.

This isn't a terrifying and sudden battle for survival. Nobody knows the effects this 'slowing' is going to have on the planet and governments and the people of Earth try to adapt to the new way of things. There is, after all, nowhere to run to avoid this impending catastrophe. It reaches every corner of the globe.

The Age of Miracles looks at these gradual changes through the eyes of a girl on the cusp of her adolescence, from the moment it was announced to the world. As the world adjusts in whatever ways they can, Julia - our guide - notes what she observes around her while dealing with the awkwardness of talking to boys, buying a bra and the everyday struggle to find happiness. She is as much in the dark as the adults and is learning as she goes, about the slowing and about herself.

The days get longer and so do the nights. Before long, the sun is up for more than 24 hours straight and people are struggling to keep going. New time-keeping measures are put in place which divide communities. Plants begin to die, birds struggle to stay airborne and people struggle to cope with the dramatic shift in their sleeping patterns.

This is certainly a debut worth looking out for. With beautiful flowing prose and not a sentence of preachy, sanctimonous drivel in sight, The Age of Miracles will politely make you think twice about leaving lights on unnecessarily, putting TVs on standby or complaining about a little rain. It will make you appreciate daylight - no matter how cloud-filled the sky may be - and the darkness that comes with the setting sun.

The Age of Miracles is not an action-packed disaster story, rather it looks at Julia and the people around her as they are forced to change what they know; adapt or die. A beautiful, compelling and utterly intoxicating debut.


The Age of Miracles will be published in the UK in June by Simon & Schuster - it is available to pre-order now.


  1. This book is highly imaginative and kept me reading. I felt for young Julia and wanted to see who would survive this, whether the earth would start spinning correctly, even whether she and Seth, a boy she is interested in, become more than friends.

    The main (picky-picky) complaint I have about this novel is that there are places where the voice isn't quite right. This tale is told in the first person from Julia's point of view, and there are a few places where the voice just didn't quite ring true for a twelve-year-old. Specifically, the vocabulary at times is a little too high for an ordinary sixth-grader's everyday speech or writing. Is Julia perhaps supposed to be gifted?

  2. Agreed that she does often sound wise before her years but isn't she writing it with hindsight? (So she is a little bit older)

  3. I've just finished this book and loved it. It really made me think, and as you say the prose is beautiful.

  4. The Age of Miracles has it all - great writing, memorable characters, a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat ... and, well, up all night.