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BOOK REVIEW: Clade by James Bradley

| 26 January 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Clade by James Bradley 

Penguin – Hamish Hamilton
January 2015
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell


Clade is the story of one family in a radically changing world, a place of loss and wonder where the extraordinary mingles with the everyday. Haunting, lyrical and  unexpectedly hopeful, it is the work of a writer in command of the major themes of time.

A provocative, urgent novel about time, family and how a changing planet might change our lives, from the acclaimed author of The Resurrectionist and editor of The Penguin Book of the Ocean.


You’re looking for a novel that is an epic, sweeping story of many generations, but at the same time not boring or dull? A novel that covers everything from the birth of a child with asthma to the relationships between a woman and her late father’s ex-wife, all the way through to climate change and bee colony collapse disorder, while not exceeding 250 pages?

Ha, yeah right!

Oh, hold up a minute, this is exactly what James Bradley has managed to do in this short epic novel.


Clade is a hard one to describe, as each chapter focuses on a different character somehow connected to Adam, the first character we meet, and the only one to get a whole three chapters, where everyone else is only afforded one.

Each turn of the page, each new chapter, introduces us to someone else, often featuring cameos by the other characters. But we are thrown in mostly blindly, and have to work out who this person is, and where they fit into the main story. Sometimes the reader will realise who that person was only later in the story, when another point of view character mentions them in passing.

This story covers the ageing of the world, destruction humans have caused or contributed to, the loss of a lot of native fauna, disease, natural disasters, and even shows us some of the technology people will invent to help them cope.

I watched him for a while, wondering how long the software agents and AIs would keep running if we all died. Would the games continue on without us? It was a strange thought, all these worlds left empty, waiting, their only inhabitants things of bits and light.

But the thing that will strike the reader most is how very real this whole novel feels.

It’s not hard to imagine these people going about their daily lives as the world continues to throw more obstacles at them. It’s not hard to imagine ourselves standing there next to them, worrying that we’re going to catch the awful disease that is sweeping the globe, or get caught up in a flash flood.

But it’s not a novel about hopelessness and death. It’s not a novel about the end of the world. It’s a novel about the resilience of humanity, their drive to exist, to be remembered.

Noah thinks they must be beings who are aware that what is said is less important than the act of speaking, letting people know they are there. Because whatever else it may say, the message says that. We are here. You are not alone.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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