Preempted by publishers around the world within days of the 2016 London Book Fair, “The End We Start From” heralds the arrival of Megan Hunter, a dazzling and unique literary talent. Hunter’s debut is a searing original, a modern-day parable of rebirth and renewal, of maternal bonds, and the instinct to survive and thrive in the absence of all that’s familiar.
As London is submerged below floodwaters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, she and her baby are forced to leave their home in search of safety. They head north through a newly dangerous country seeking refuge from place to place. The story traces fear and wonder as the baby grows, thriving and content against all the odds.
“The End We Start From” is an indelible and elemental first book—a lyrical vision of the strangeness and beauty of new motherhood, and a tale of endurance in the face of ungovernable change.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Megan Hunter was born in Manchester in 1984, and now lives in Cambridge with her young family. She has a BA in English Literature from Sussex University, and an MPhil in English Literature: Criticism and Culture from Jesus College, Cambridge. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and she was a finalist for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award with her short story “Selfing.” “The End We Start From“ is her first book.
Q&A with Megan
Why did you write The End We Start From?
I’ve imagined disasters and catastrophes from an early age, so in a sense it was natural for me to write a dystopian narrative, although I didn’t realize this until after I’d written it. The focus of a lot of my work in the lead up to writing The End We Start From was motherhood — I was exploring my experiences through poetry and short fiction, with a particular focus on the maternal body and the physical relationship with a new baby. The book was given its start through the meeting of these two themes in my mind: climate change and motherhood, particularly through images of water, and its place in our creation and destruction, in despair and hope.
What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?
It was my first book, so mainly there was that challenge to just keep going — even though it is very short, I still faltered and doubted myself along the way. Luckily I’d had an early reader give encouraging feedback, and that helped a lot. But it was the momentum of the story itself that meant there really wasn’t any option not to finish it — I had to see what was going to happen to the characters. The story developed as I wrote it, and I needed to know whether they would find safety.
How might fiction help us to explore contemporary issues?
I think fiction gives us the chance to see contemporary issues in a completely different light. That is what is most exciting to me in literary works: not the straightforward presentation of event and reaction, but the depth, subtlety and innovation that fiction can bring to language itself, and thus to the stories of our lives and times.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I remember reading A Cricket in Times Square in the car as a child and having a very memorable, tangible experience of feeling that I was actually in the book: that I had been transported to another place, had experienced something completely new and had been changed by it. I remember thinking something like: this is it. This is what books can do. I think it was one of the first times I had experienced that radical potential for transformation that fiction can bring: the way it can gift you experiences and understandings in the most intimate, vivid way.
What book(s) have made you see the world differently? How?
One of the books that has had a lasting impact on the way I think is Ernst Bloch’s The Principle of Hope. In all of his work Bloch emphasized the openness and dynamism of history, the way that true hope has the potential to move us forward to a better future. His notion of the traces of hope that we can look for in a seemingly hopeless world has had a profound impact on me as a reader and a writer, and seems more relevant to the world we live in every day.