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Hello and welcome to another tasty debrief! Today I will be talking about a book I finished the other day called The Second Sleep by Robert Harris. Here is the blurb:
"All civilizations consider themselves invulnerable; history warns us that none is."
1468. A young priest, Christopher Fairfax, arrives in a remote English village to conduct the funeral of his predecessor. The land around is strewn with ancient artefacts--coins, fragments of glass, human bones--which the old parson used to collect. Did his obsession with the past lead to his death?
As Fairfax is drawn more deeply into the isolated community, everything he believes--about himself, his faith and the history of his world--is tested to destruction.
I will be going into spoilers so you may want to stop reading if you haven't read it, but it's up to you! You have been warned!
So, my dad had read the book during the first lockdown, and as I've gotten into reading a lot more this year, I thought I'd give it a go. Since starting it, my dad has gotten a few other Robert Harris books so I might try those in the future, but as my first venture into his work, I think this is a good pick.
I felt quite confused when starting as the blurb on the book only really described the first few chapters so I had no clue what would happen, and even just a few pages from the end, I had no clue where it would end up. Normally what I read is predicable or you can work out what might happen, but I had no clue with this one. I did quite like that in a way though. It didn't feel like the most dramatic or thrilling of stories, so to be kept on edge by the unknown was a plus.
I really liked getting to follow Christopher Fairfax on his journey, and learning about the world as he did. I wasn't shocked when we discovered that this primitive world was actually in the future because my dad had dropped a few things like that when he had read it, but it didn't mean that I enjoyed it any less. I thought the whole concept was so clever and as a planet that loves a good apocalypse story, this book felt so exciting and different to any book, film or show I've seen before!
I liked how it was simple, like there was a lot happening, but there weren't hundreds of characters or places or things to remember, instead just a main core of people to focus on and a few locations to get to grips with. Obviously books like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings are incredibly written and detailed, but they can feel alien and difficult to get on with, which made The Second Sleep quite easy to sink into.
Now, I'm definitely not the first to say this but the ending did disappoint me. It wasn't what I expected at all. I had planned in my head that they'd find a secret bunker which somehow still had electricity and Fairfax would plug in a phone and see the screen light up and scene! So for it to be a burial chamber and only wall paintings and screens instead, I was unsure. I did a bit of googling after, and I spoke to my parents and it made me realise that it was the ending that was perfect for the book. We live in a materialistic world with so much of what we own online and in the cloud. If something turns all that off one day, we lose it all. Photos, money, documents, so much is gone and we praise it. We live with them attached to our hands. And it's not always a bad thing, but to realise that through this, that one day it will all be gone, really is eye opening.
I was confused by the second sleep idea and how the village stayed awake through it. I didn't understand how Fairfax could drink so much and blackout at the wake as I definitely thought the villagers were evil and weird. Some bits I felt were odd and not necessary to the story unless they were going to be bought up again, but others were so beautifully written, thought-out and described that really make this book an incredible read.
I think I would like to read Fatherland next which is arguably Robert Harris' best known book, but I really do admire his writing style, and hope that you enjoyed it if you've read it! Thanks for reading!