Wu Chen Recommends: Brother in the Land

As I read to my child every night, I’ve been picking through my books looking for good material; We’re rather partial to poetry and I think that it’s also a good way to learn a language. Anyway, I’ve thus been picking through some of my dustier shelves, and I recently pulled out Robert Swindells’ Brother in the Land.

I remember thinking it was an excellent book as a boy of 14, but that I couldn’t bring myself to read it many times again (like many children, I reread the same books over and over). I still have the exact same copy; it followed me across the Pacific.

I had to know if my memory served me well. Unlike The Neverending Story, which I still read somewhat regularly, I had not ever considered Brother in the Land from an adult’s point of view.

My memory had not, in its essence, failed me. This is a startlingly powerful book for the same reason the great fairy tales are: it’s startlingly honest, real and raw; I completely believe that it is told by a teenage boy.

I could see why I couldn’t read it over and over at 14: the brutality of the post-nuclear Britain depicted is quite raw. At nearly 40, I have the same reaction, but this time because of the complete and utter humanity of it all.

If you can get your hands on a copy, read it. Followers of this column have probably figured out I’m a huge fan of the public library. Support your local library! Unfortunately, I can’t find this book in the HCL or RCL systems…

Otherwise, let me know and I’ll lend you mine. I don’t think I’ll be reading it anytime soon.

p.s. it must have been post-apocalyptic fever! I also read Z is for Zachariah and watched the film for English class that year.