The End of the World is Bigger Than Love

By Davina Bell

Publisher/Year: Text Publishing/2020

Publisher description

She said we didn’t know what the world out there had become. We had been alone there so long on that tiny island, in that tiny church.
But in the night, I couldn’t bear it.
My chest beat like wings.

Identical twin sisters Summer and Winter live alone on a remote island, sheltered from a destroyed world. They survive on rations stockpiled by their father and spend their days deep in their mother’s collection of classic literature—until a mysterious stranger upends their carefully constructed reality.

At first, Edward is a welcome distraction. But who is he really, and why has he come? As love blooms and the world stops spinning, the secrets of the girls’ past begin to unravel and escape is the only option.

A sumptuously written novel of love and grief; of sisterly affection and the ultimate sacrifice; of technological progress and climate catastrophe; of an enigmatic bear and a talking whale—The End of the World Is Bigger than Love is unlike anything you’ve read before.

Reviewer: Kerryn Mayne

A book that involves a pandemic may not be your first pick for some light reading at this unusual moment in history. The End of the World is Bigger Than Love involves just that; a pandemic causing The Greying which has sparked devastation across the world. Don’t turn away just yet though, this one is as far away from stockpiling toilet paper from your local Aldi as you can get.

This book is set in the near future- not that this is specifically mentioned – but references to Taylor Swift and Obama grounding us somewhere between what we know and what may come to be. This book is hard to describe without giving away spoilers. Although I have read it twice and despite knowing what happened, my love of the writing and story didn’t dull in the slightest.

Orphaned fifteen-year-old twins Winter and Summer are living on an unspecified island. Their father took them to this secret place, as far away from technology and the internet as he could find, before leaving them alone. They have subsisted on a collection of books and dwindling food supplies that once included condensed milk and a lot of nougat. Then one day Edward stumbles out of the trees. One sister trusts him, the other does not. He will change everything.

This is a young adult book that broaches some intense themes; global terrorism, suicide and the panic inducing ‘greying’ are not for every young adult reader. And yet it is told so well and with such whimsy that I devoured it, twice. The cast of characters are unusual and I wasn’t surprised to hear that Bell had borrowed ‘deeply and unapologetically’ from The Life of Pi in the metaphorical animal sense. Given that Summer spends some time chatting with a very Zen blue whale and some conjecture over a talking bear, I can see the parallels.  

‘Your glass-bottomed boat may crack. But to have sailed it and see into the soul of another realm. Isn’t the wonder worth it?’

I’m not entirely sure I understand everything that occurred in this gorgeous book. It has so many layers crammed between those beautifully decorated covers and I can’t believe I am recommending a pandemic themed book. But I am Wholeheartedly (capital W) doing just that.