Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Clade by James Bradley (2015)

Clade opens during the solstice. Adam Leith, a scientist, is on an exploration to the Antarctic, trying to understand what happened to the earth during past periods of warming in order to help address present day global warming. He receives a call from his wife, Ellie, telling him that after two years of trying they are finally going to have a baby. According to Wikipedia, a clade is "a life-form group consisting of an ancestor and all its descendants." Clade the novel follows the tale of Adam's family over the next four generations as climate change triggers events that have catastrophic impacts for the human race.

I am finding it hard to describe the novel without giving too much away. Narratively, Clade  works like a spinning wheel turning through time that stops every now and again to show a brief moment in the life of one of its characters: Adam and Ellie's daughter Summer as a toddler then as a child then as a teenager; her son; his family. Due to this fragmentation, it's not the kind of book where one forms a close relationship with a character and follows their story to its end. Rather, we are offered moments in the lives of a number of characters who are part of the same clade and I found the effect of that on me was to care for a family rather than an individual, much like I did in Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. It is beautiful written and exquisitely sad. It shows a future of sadness, hardship and death yet in which life continues; not life as we know it, but a remarkable and incredible persistence of being.

I really enjoyed this book. Five stars.

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