California by Edan Lepucki
A Recommended Book of the Month
First off, California is not a fantasy novel per se, and yet this tale of survival can be placed firmly in a dystopic near future. Frida and Cal have left the remnants of Los Angeles to find a safe haven in the wilderness as the city further disintegrates. This is a grim future where money has no real value and yet you cannot join the safety of a community unless you have a lot. Can you imagine a life in a city without access to fresh/clean water, with no gas or electricity because of rising costs? We are told these are still available in the exclusive communities, but if that’s too hard to imagine then maybe consider the fact that you wouldn’t be able to access the internet!
The book is very intelligently written, spliced between the present Cal and Frida are living in and yet also segueing into the past showing how the couple came to be in the Wilderness. We discover how Cal and Frida met through her brother Micah. Micah is a pivotal, charismatic character and yet when I read the parts of the book he appears in, he never seemed like a person you would want to meet.
Out of the couple Cal is the stoic practical family man who is trying to keep Frida safe from the present, the future and the past. Luckily he has knowledge of how to cultivate earth to grow food for them both. Frida on the other hand is a dreamer and yet keeps secrets from Cal. They have in my mind a more “traditional” relationship where Frida tends the home and Cal is the provider.
California is a dark and atmospheric book and builds a lot of tension between its pages. Especially when Cal and Frida realise they are not as alone as they thought they were, eventually making their way to The Land. The people who live in The Land believe in containment and the second half of California focuses on whether Cal and Frida will be accepted on The Land.
Is company a good or bad thing if people are hiding their pasts from you? Containment can go either way, keeping people out or keeping the people who are already there in. Cal and Frida need to decide if this is where they want to stay as their relationship is stretched and tested, where it was once strong it weakens from their interactions with so many others.
Is California a place or a state of mind? The secrets and lies we tell to keep people safe, can also cause the most harm, how can you trust people if they are omitting the truth or is truth only as valid as the person speaking it? There is a certain male arrogance running throughout California which can be summed up with this quote from Cal “She would be happier not knowing, as long as he had her best interests in mind”. Frida in her role of wife has the following thought “She could trust him to make decisions for their family”. I found Cal and Frida’s interactions really interesting - how their power struggles affect not only themselves but the friendships they have with others.
I found California a really interesting story with lots of twists and turns that never became boring. The characters are well constructed and although you may not empathise with some of the main characters you will understand the lengths people will go to protect their families as well as to simply survive.
This California book review was written by Michelle Herbert
Have you read California?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
California reader reviews
8.5/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothi...
Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels ag...
The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct. The half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boun...
Oryx and Crake
Snowman may be the last man on earth, the only survivor of an unnamed apocalypse. Once he was Jimmy, a member of a scientific elite; now he lives in bitter isolation and lo...
Facing down an unprecedented malevolent enemy, the government responds with a nuclear attack. America as it was is gone forever, and now every citizen – from the Pres...
The Last Man Standing
Italy is on the brink of collapse. Borders are closed, banks withhold money, the postal service stalls. Armed gangs of drug-fuelled youths roam the countryside. Leonardo wa...
The Drowned World
Fluctuations in solar radiation have melted the ice caps, sending the planet into a new Triassic Age of unendurable heat. London is a swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows ...
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
John Joseph Adams
Famine, death, war, pestilence. These are said to be the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse-Armageddon. The End of the World. Whether by nuclear warfare, a biological di...
The Crystal World
Through a ‘leaking’ of time, the West African jungle starts to crystallize. Trees metamorphose into enormous jewels. Crocodiles encased in second glittering ski...
Emily St John Mandel
What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty. One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whil...
An illness spreads through an unnamed city. It has only one symptom: blindness. It comes without fanfare, pain, or warning. One moment a man waits in his car at the traffic...
The Reapers are the Angels
God is a slick god. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe... Older than her years and completely alone, Temp...
Legends of the Red Sun
Mark Charan Newton
An ice age strikes a chain of islands, and thousands come to seek sanctuary at the gates of Villjamur. It’s a city of ancient spires and bridges, a place where banshe...
The Return Man
The outbreak tore the USA in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness. They call it the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco ma...
A modern Britain. An age-old cruelty. Britain's magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years - and now it's the Hadleys' turn...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Best of 2016
What are Strungballs? Ten-year-old Sydney is about to find out... but first he must have a cube of his flesh removed. Sydney will transgress everything he was taught to believ...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can be. Reg, an agoraphobic writer with an obsession for nineties football, plans to wait out the impending doom in his second floor flat, hiding himself away from the riots outs...
The Shadow Crucible
Taking humanity back to their primordial beliefs and fears, Estella confronts Mikhail’s faith by revealing the true horror of the lucrative trade in human souls. All ...
The Dog Stars
Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's...
Beren and Luthien
Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien wil...
Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall - named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn h...
While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya. The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient...
The Ninth Rain
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the real...