#115 Reading The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver


Lionel Shriver  is probably best known for her novel We need to talk about Kevin which was adapted for film with Tilda Swinton playing the mother of Kevin. The Mandibles: A Family,  2029 – 2047 begins, unsurprisingly, in 2029 during the middle of a debt crisis which causes the collapse of the US economy. The Mandible family is particularly affected and must go to extraordinary lengths to survive.

As I was listening to the book, I imagined that Shriver must have used the example of what happened in Germany during the depression years in the 1920’s as a model for her ideas but I don’t think this is the case. The Mandibles is like a futuristic Grapes of Wrath and expounds Shriver’s economic politics.

The book started me thinking. I’m a firm believer that the past tends to repeat itself and that, given the evidence of humanity’s inability to deal with the challenges of climate change and resource depletion the prospect of this current civilisation going the same way as so many others through the ages as Jared Diamond explores in his book, A New Green History of the World.

I wrote WHEN THE WELL RUNS DRY with this idea in mind that as societies learn to deal with less energy and resources that, without proper management, they would regress to the same uncivilised states from which they emerged.

After listening to The Mandibles, after seeing the terrible state countries are getting themselves into voting for right wing governments in the UK, the US and Brazil, and contemplating the worst things that could happen following Brexit, the desire to write some kind of prequel to WHEN THE WELL RUNS DRY grabbed hold of me.

Still stimulated by this idea of history repeating itself, I decided to do some research into Germany in the first third of the 20th Century and the circumstances which led to the tragedies surrounding the Second World War.

One of the best diarists of the period was a German, Victor Klemperer. His books, Munich 1919 and I Will Bear Witness, give a valuable insight into the revolution at the end for the First World War and the build up to the Second World War, respectively. To fill the missing years in between I turned to Little Man, What Now? by Hans Fallada which is a great reflection of every day German life during this period.

If we are not to repeat the mistakes of the past then we must learn from history. However, judging by the knee jerk reactions in the US and Europe over what is a relatively small number of immigrants, imagine how these societies will react when the real climate and resource refugees start to arrive.

About M J Dees

M J Dees lives and works in Sao Paulo, Brazil with his wife, daughter and two cats. He has written three novels, Living with Saci, The Astonishing Anniversaries of James and David, Part One, and When The Well Runs Dry. He is currently editing the fourth and writing the fifth. You can sign up for more information on his book launches at http://eepurl.com/cTnAD5 and receive a free copy of Living With Saci.
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1 Response to #115 Reading The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver

  1. All the hatred here in the US grieves me. I welcome immigrants, but so many people don’t. The income inequality rivals that of the early 20th century., before federal income taxes were imposed,. I despair not only for my country, but the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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