Van has finished reading…The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

26 Jan

This is the first book from my stint as a member of the inaugural Curtis Brown Book Group (@CBBookGroup). As such I’m going to try and depart from my usual ‘what I like about it’ and give a more rounded review.
And what a book to start with! Despite knowing all about books and the judging thereof by covers, I can tell you that photos of the cover of Antonia Honeywell’s The Ship don’t do it justice. Holding my copy in my hands did little to abate the sense of excitement and expectation. When you get your copy I firmly believe you’ll not be disappointed by cover or contents. It’s a truly excellent book.
Teenage girls braving dystopian futures seem to abound these days, but I implore you not to let this one pass you by. Above all else this is a story about people, about family and about love. It’s about the things love makes us do, and the lengths we’ll go to to secure what’s important to us. Lalage Paul (you might think it a bit Hollywood-baby-name at first hearing, but it’s as old as the hills and like all good names there’s a reason for the choosing of it) is like any teenager. Her world is much smaller than the one she walks through. Though Lalla’s excuse for this is a world rapidly falling apart, what we see through her eyes is still that unaffected gaze the brushes the surface of things beyond the family unit. I don’t want to blow any plot points for you so I’ll say only that Lalla is on the brink. She is about to come of age; In her world becoming sixteen means a good deal more than being able to vote. Her world is about to get a great deal larger. There’s a really nice sense of concentricity about Lalla’s awareness that feels very real. She struggles with things and grows by degrees, yet there’s a sense of withdrawal with each expanding horizon, an ebb and flow.
There’s just one point which stuck with me and I found it hard to correlate with Lalla’s character. There is a question that bothers her, the answer to which I doubt will be lost on any readers and it surprised me that it took Lalla so long to figure it out. There are of course extenuating circumstances and it may be we can reconcile the misunderstanding, or perhaps more likely the unwillingness to understand, accordingly. It was simply that for me Lalla doesn’t appear either unintelligent or gauche enough to have taken so long to catch up with the rest of us.
It could well serve as a lesson in how what happens shapes and drives your characters rather than your characters contriving the plot. With the exception of the previous paragraph, there wasn’t a page of this book that made me think the author had shoe-horned a scene to get a point across. Given the scope Antonia Honeywell had in the middle section that’s quite a feat; the sheer aimlessness of a mass of people herding from one thing to the next really underlined the surreal nature of it all. By the middle of the book I knew how it was going to end, but in a way that I think is most pleasing (not least because it allows me to think that I’m there on a wavelength with the writer) because it was the only ending that made perfect sense – at least to me, and I guess to Antonia Honeywell too.
It’s one of those books that has the ability to hold a mirror up to you and ask ‘what would you do?’ The test of this, then, is being able to look past the initial response and see the gap between what you’d like to think you’d do and what you actually might.
It’s a gripping read with a broad appeal. The writing is, I think, very nice indeed, with some truly deft imagery. Above all, it’s a story that has the power to stay with you, to ask questions beyond the last word, and that’s no easy accomplishment. Try it. You’ll not regret it.

The Ship was published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson on 19th February 2015, ISBN:9780297871491
You can find Antonia on Twitter @Antonia_writes and on her website,

7 Responses to “Van has finished reading…The Ship by Antonia Honeywell”


  1. The Inaugural Curtis Brown Book Group – my first six months as a #CBBookGroupie | vanisreading - 01/07/2015

    […] The Ship by Antonia Honeywell […]

  2. Van’s top five reads in 2015 | vanisreading - 07/01/2016

    […] of our books for the Curtis Brown Book Group arrived, and what a book it is! Antonia Honeywell’s The Ship set a very high bar. It’s testament to the power not only of the story itself but of Antonia’s […]

  3. The #CBBookGroupie playlist | vanisreading - 09/02/2016

    […] Theme, The Ship by Antonia […]

  4. A Q & A with Antonia Honeywell, author of The Ship | vanisreading - 18/03/2016

    […] you know that for a time it will be there. Rarely have I come across a book that haunted me like The Ship. Long past that normal period of recalling and reflecting I found it drifting into my […]

  5. Van has finished reading…Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick | vanisreading - 03/06/2016

    […] how well these characters will translate. Whereas a character like Lalla from Antonia Honeywell’s The Ship (which wasn’t written or marketed as a Young Adult novel) carries an appeal that spans a broad […]

  6. Van has finished reading… All Rivers Run Free by Natasha Carthew | vanisreading - 24/01/2018

    […] herself. I was strongly reminded of Jess Richards’ City of Circles, and Antonia Honeywell’s The Ship, all books with at their heart a young woman adrift in her own world and trying to make sense of […]

  7. Recommend Me a Book – March-19 Dystopia – unFinnished Dreams - 15/03/2019

    […] You can get The Ship here. Follow Antonia Honeywell on Twitter. Read a review of the novel here. […]

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