Flood Warning (Puffin Books) Paperback – 24 Feb 1972
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Top Customer Reviews
It is so vividly described that it is difficult to believe that Berna did not experience it - but he was born elsewhere in France, and perhaps he was drawing on the great floods that affected Angers in 1936 - when he would have been 28. He describes canoeing down one of Angers' main streets in the fog - and the Pathé news reel of the time shows what it would have been like.
Three of our protagonists are trapped in the top floor of the old mill - where the miller survived in similar floods in 1820 - while every single other school building is completely submerged. The rest of the school, staff and pupils, are wet and helpless in the open air - refugees on the nearest high ground, the woods. This flood, though, is modern - finally helicopters come to the rescue in their dozens from all parts of France.
The novel opens with its message - in a geography lesson - "major natural disasters will always overwhelm mankind by their very unexpectedness or their very scale, so quickly does each fresh generation forget and so shortsighted it is."
'Flood Warning' was purchased because it was one of the two books by Paul Berna I'd read as a child. Partly prompted by the endless rain we have experienced for over a year now, I purchased another copy... and I am so glad I did!
The reader is introduced to the small world of Chateau Milon - a sleepy boarding school inhabited by public school boys and their school masters. When the Loire, bursts its banks, creating a seemingly unstoppable flood, Chateau-Milon is cut off from the outside world. With flood waters continuing to rise relentlessly, the best and worst is brought out in pupils and adults. Eventually it is Monsieur Sala the ineffectual school master and the detached, disdainful pupil the Vicomte Hubert who become the unlikely heroes of the story.
Set in the 1950s, within beautifully etched landscapes, dramatically altered by the onslaught of torrential storms and rain; and with its skilfully crafted, rounded characters, this book is a pleasure to read and re read. Thoroughly recommended.