A well-crafted and timely novel, Philippa Holloway’s The Half-Life Of Snails is a vivid and emotional exploration of human connections and the surrounding landscapes. Living against the backdrop of the Wylfa nuclear power plant on the island of Ynys Môn, protagonist Helen faces numerous challenges to try and keep the family’s farmland. While dealing with personal tragedy, she embarks on a trip to the Chornobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine – leaving son Jack with sister Jennifer, herself employed in the nuclear industry. Helen’s subsequent attempts to return home hit the buffers, testing her reserve in more ways than one – likewise that of the family back home.
Set around the nuclear landscapes, the haunting scenes of this novel – set during 2014’s Ukrainian Maidan revolution – are rendered additionally relevant in our current era of war. However, despite the bleak nature of many themes in the book, Holloway’s exquisite prose manages to provide pockets of hope in this emotional tale of community, identity, power and strong family ties.
The author has crafted a beautiful yet unsettling story with a strong sense of place, accentuating the bond between humans and the landscapes they live in. The Half-Life Of Snails is a book to reflect on that will undoubtedly linger long after finishing.
The Half-Life Of Snails, Philippa Holloway (Parthian)
Price: £15. Info: here
words RHIANON HOLLEY
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