Book Review: The Blue Book of Nebo – Manon Steffan Ros by Roachie’s Reviews @laurajroachTweet
The Blue Book of Nebo
Author(s): Manon Steffan Ros (author), Becka Moor (cover illustrator)
Publisher: Firefly Press
Publication date: January 2022
This is a book in translation. It was originally written in Welsh – you can purchase Llyfr Glas Nebo from Y Lolfa.
Dylan was six when The End came, back in 2018; when the electricity went off for good, and the ‘normal’ 21st century world he knew disappeared.
Now he’s 14 and he and his mam have survived in their isolated hilltop house above the village of Nebo in north-west Wales, learning new skills, and returning to old ways of living.
Despite their close understanding, the relationship between mother and son changes subtly as Dylan must take on adult responsibilities. And they each have their own secrets, which emerge as, in turn, they jot down their thoughts and memories in a found notebook – the Blue Book of Nebo.
I have to admit, I had never heard of The Blue Book of Nebo until I saw a tweet from Firefly Press to say it had been longlisted for The Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing 2023. I was immediately intrigued as I love dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction, and to see something set in the depths of my home country of Wales rather than the centre of London was incredibly refreshing.
However, after reading, I feel that slapping the labels of ‘dystopian’ or ‘post-apocalyptic’ on The Blue Book of Nebo is somewhat reductionist. It takes away the heart of the book, such as the focus on what it means to be a family, which the story so beautifully conveys – including the difficult bits.
The story alternates between Dylan, age 14, who doesn’t really remember much before The End, and Rowenna, age 36, who remembers exactly what life was like before The End. They bring two very different perspectives; Dylan finds his mother impenetrable and hard, and Rowenna remembers what came before The End but doesn’t want Dylan to know the full story of how he or his sister came to be.
There is also Mona, Dylan’s baby sister and Rowenna’s daughter, who so subtly holds the whole family together in all her toddler-ish innocence.
What makes The Blue Book of Nebo so fantastic is the way it shapes and moulds your assumptions and attitudes as it progresses. I mean, the end of civilisation would be terrible – right? Or what if we need a reminder now, at this moment, to simplify our lives? To focus on the small things, appreciate the world around us, and not worry about the things that consume so much of our time and energy for so little gain (I’m looking at you, internet!).
This is truly a wonderful book; the world- and character-building are so absorbing and believable that you can almost forget they do not actually exist in the real world. Not right now.
It’s easy to see why this book has been longlisted for The Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing; highly recommended.
I borrowed this book from my local library. When I borrowed it, the previous borrower had inserted a leaf and seed pod from a tree in the inside cover. I have left them there; I think Dylan would have approved.
You can order The Blue Book of Nebo from Hive.co.uk.
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Wishing you a wonderfully bookish week,
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