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We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin As the days and nights grow longer and they are forced to face a disaster about which they can do nothing. The book is told through the eyes of an year old Californian girl, Julia, who is not only confronting the slowing of the earth, but the trials of becoming a teenager in an uncertain time.

We did not sense, at first, the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin. We were distracted, back then, by weather and war. We had no interest in the turning of the earth. Bombs continued to explode on the streets of distant countries.

Hurricanes came and went. Summer ended. A new school year began. The clocks ticked as usual. Seconds beaded into minutes. Minutes grew into hours. But there were those who would later claim to have recognized the disaster before the rest of us did. These were the night workers, the graveyard shifters, the stockers of shelves, and the loaders of ships, the drivers of big-rig trucks, or else they were the bearers of different burdens: the sleepless and the troubled and the sick.

These people were accustomed to waiting out the night. Through bloodshot eyes, a few did detect a certain persistence of darkness on the mornings leading up to the news, but each mistook it for the private misperception of a lonely, rattled mind. On the sixth of October, the experts went public. This, of course, is the day we all remember. He cleared his throat and swallowed.

Cameras flashed in his eyes. At the beginning, people stood on street corners and shouted about the end of the world. Counselors came to talk to us at school.

I remember watching Mr. Valencia next door fill up his garage with stacks of canned food and bottled water, as if preparing, it now seems to me, for a disaster much more minor. The grocery stores were soon empty, the shelves sucked clean like chicken bones. The freeways clogged immediately.

People heard the news and they wanted to move. Families piled into minivans and crossed state lines. They scurried in every direction like small animals caught suddenly under a light. But, of course, there was nowhere on earth to go. And the first is a global disaster story, as seen through the eyes of an year-old girl - Karen Thompson Walker's The Age Of Miracles.


There'd been a change, they said. A slowing. And that's what they called it from then on - the Slowing. Our days had grown by 56 minutes in the night. The grocery stores were soon empty, the shelves sucked clean. People heard the news and scurried in every direction, like small animals caught suddenly under a light. But of course there was nowhere on Earth to go.

What did you think? It's a really, really good idea, this. But it's a curious book, though, because it's both partly a speculative fiction novel - what if this were to happen? It's also a sort of young adult book. It's told through the eyes of year-old Julia, narrated by her, but it's actually narrated from 10 or 12 years in the future. And sometimes I think that it doesn't quite meld together. There are bits Particularly the speculative stuff. I wanted more of that. I wanted more about what was going on with the world, what was going wrong and how it was impacting.

You read it and it's Yeah, it's quite convincing in the end. I couldn't stop. I thought She kept using those I never felt like I got to the point where there was a point of realisation or there was a point of, um, 'This is why we stuffed up. This is why the Slowing happened.

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Because it's also the two stories, and you're saying you wanted more of the speculative fiction. Some of the people have said they wanted more of the coming of age. What do you reckon? I loved it desperately. I wish we could swear on this show, because I love this book so expleting much.

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It was fantastic. And all that stuff you were talking about, I can understand I too would like to read a book about the world slowing down where suddenly you see the military implications of it and governments falling and so on, but that's not what this is about.

It's about a girl. Not at all. And so, you know, the stuff that's important to her is not the stuff that's important to us. The stuff that's important to her is, you know, the bitch queen who makes fun of her at the back of the bus and the boy that she desperately, desperately loves who just ignores her and then goes out with her and then ignores her again. And those are actually the most powerful parts of the book, is where she has those completely mundane year-old girl experiences that just rip your heart out and throw it against the wall.

I just I thought it was fantastic.

The Age of Miracles: A Novel

I'm so glad! I'm Team Mulvany, I've got to say, on this one.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I found it a real plod. And I don't think that what was of interest to a year-old girl has to be uninteresting to an adult audience. It is an interesting idea and, as far as I know, an original one. Readers will be intrigued.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker: | Books

There is certain to be film interest. Publishers have bid for far worse. The answer to the second question is more complex. Walker is a decent stylist of the keep-it-direct American school, though there are lapses: Julia misses Hanna, her best friend, "like a phantom limb". But where Walker excels is voice. She is deft, convincing and sometimes brilliant in her evocation of a young girl's experience of complex and flawed adult relationships.

Likewise, Julia's suffering at the hands of her crueller peers is skilfully done. In other words, what we have here is a fine coming-of-age novel wrapped in a high concept. And my guess is that this book started as the former and was spliced into the latter. But this splicing seems to me a shame. Because the truth is that Walker's gimmick obscures and detracts from her own talent. She doesn't really need "the Slowing" at all.

In scene after scene — between Julia's mother and father, Julia and her grandfather, Julia and her piano teacher, Julia and her fellow students at the bus stop, Julia and Seth, the boy on whom she is fixated, Julia and her emotionally distant father — Walker renders her characters persuasively, with insight, economy and subtlety.

Strip out the creaking contrivance and the novel's many affecting moments would surely resonate all the more through the sincerity and power of their realism. The paradox is that without the high concept, publishers wouldn't have had the confidence to buy the novel at such a price. Indeed, Walker might not have believed she could sell it. And in this sense, The Age of Miracles is a book of our time. Would it have got all the attention, would it even have been published, if it were "merely" a beautifully observed coming-of-age story in the great American tradition?

It's an awkward question.