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on 13 March 2017
The fact that you know the ending of the story about Noah (here Noe) and the ark should not put you off reading this intelligent, imaginative and intriguing book. It's definitely the most novel story I've read in ages. Noe is not the most endearing character; he is patriarch and believer. Although he questions some of God's commands from the point of view of asking "How?, he reamins determined to carry out the tasks set him. Fortunately his lumpen sons do not query Noe's wishes which is just as well as they supply the hard graft in the form of brawn and not brains. The intelligent ones are the women folk - one talks about classifying the birds on the ark by their behaviour thus foreshadowing Linnaeus by a few thousand years; she also queries the presence of shells on the tops of mountains thus putting pay to Creationism. These little philosophical meanderings are not only great fun but also quite deep and meaningful. As for Mrs Noe - she's a gem and it is only at the end of the story that Noe shows the appreciation that she richly deserved through her long marriage to him. Do read this book - it's marvellous! (By the way, I do hope I have not given the impression that I am a rampant feminist!)
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VINE VOICEon 16 August 2006
David Maine's "The Flood" is a gem.

The story of patriarch Noah and family unfolds in three sections - Cloud, Rain and Sun.

Each short chapter is told from the perspective of Noe, `The Wife' or one of their sons Sem, clever Cham, Japeth or daughters-in-law Brea, Ilya or Mirn.

The chapters flow past quickly, and occasional leaps backwards/forwards in time seem natural.

Before, during and after the flood, this story bristles with life. As the claustrophobic year in the ark rolls on, the eight adults increasingly resemble their zoological charges.
The primitive nature of life is reflected in language, e.g. mammals including humans rut; cue expletive mutterings from Noe's sons. Death is also a recurring theme - ever think what happened to the tired dove that returned after surveying the waters for Noe? And, while the final `Sun' chapters reveal new vistas for three young families, the account of one character's basic death is moving.

YAHWEH is very present in The Flood - in the miraculous gathering of animals and creeping things, and in the lengthy silences in His relationship with Noe. One powerful incident is Noe's dream of God as talkative ant, regal swan and angry lioness. No God-in-a-box here.

The book's inside cover quotes Ann Patchett's review:
"Funny, tender, intelligent, irreverent and worshipful. It is an enormous juggling act of families, animals and faith, and it kept me engaged through every page."

I'll echo that and add that, for me, there's a lingering richer appreciation of faith, life and mystery after reading The Flood.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 August 2013
I have heard many authors describing the origins of their first novel. In many cases it coalesced around a germ of an idea or an experience that that had had. I would love to know how David Maine arrived at the idea for his first novel, The Flood, which was published in 2004 and long-listed for the Guardian's First Book Award.

In essence, the author retells one of the best known stories in the Old Testament, that of Noah, his Ark and the Flood (and the menagerie of animals). The source that he uses, is the Douay Bible, translated in Rheims (1582) and published in Douay ( 1609). Consequently we read about Noe, and his sons Sem and Cham, rather than the more familiar Noah, Shem and Ham. Japheth is the remaining son. I found that this subtle change was sufficient to provide distance from the very familiar childhood story, which became very much more alive, brutal and frightening in this retelling. What we get here may be, in some ways, akin to how the story would have been told by the `fire and brimstone' preachers of olden days.

Although there is also much humour, Maine does not update or tell the story with a 21st century knowing wink. This is serious, deadly serious story-telling. Noe is a grumpy, unpleasant 600 year old who lives a patriarchal life in a patriarchal time. His response, when he hears a voice inside his head telling him to build a huge boat, is to piss himself, then to gather his family and order them to start building. One advantage of a patriarchal society is that no-one argues with dad. He may be stupid or mad but he will be obeyed.

There is much farting, rutting and men tugging themselves which I do not remember from Genesis. It starts to rain and the jeering masses are desperate to be let aboard. Noe's daughter-in-law wonders whether some of the children might be rescued but Noe knows that children will be born on board, after all that's what patriarchs are for.

Like a Medieval Mystery Play, or a modern retelling, there are different voices, 8 in all, and only Noe never talks directly to the reader, no doubt a patriarchal rule. The voices, in a series of short chapters, describe the biblical story, building the ark, collecting the animals, awaiting the deluge, floating away, floating, ever floating, then eventually seeing the bird with the leaf, settling on Mount Ararat. But crucially we also get the inserts, they grow tired, get bored, are hungry and become thoroughly annoyed with one another and silently seethe at Noe.

Noe's wife sighs, gets on with life and does most of the work; the three daughters-in-law, the strength of this unique family, are the only non-drowned fertile women and comment on their situation and the characters around them. These women, not named in Genesis are here named Bera, Ilya and Mirn. The women, verily, are the strong ones. Bera, an African sold by her father as a child slave, is detached and thoughtful. Ilya, raised under the influence of powerful goddesses, is a proto-feminist, while Mirn, still a girl, sees God in small things, mating snakes, a spider's web.

Maine's early biography is fascinating, an American who has worked in national mental health systems, he lived in Morocco and is now settled in Pakistan. Moreover, he writes with assuredness about the desert, nomads, primitive communities and imagines in a convincing manner how, in Noe's time, verbal communication might have developed. Time after time, Maine ignores the easy opportunities to draw parallels with our technologically-advanced time: oceans rising = environmental catastrophies, prophets crying out against the godlessness of modern civilization = religious fundamentalism, punishing unbelievers = global terrorism.

In a debut novel, an author must be under such enormous pressure from editors, friends, "experts" and their own internal voice to tie up loose ends and not leave the reader wondering. Maine ignores all these pressures and maybe, as a result, lost an award, but he remains a genuine independent voice and is all the more important for that.

The style is open and fluent so that the reader can zip through the book. But then one begins to think what has been read and its true depth becomes apparent, just like the rising waters under Noe's Ark, and we all know what that led to.
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VINE VOICEon 16 March 2010
A wonderful retelling of the biblical story of Noah and the Ark. Told simply, the story is brought to life in a very memorable way. We meet Noah and his family - real people, given real lives in this book. David Maine stays true to the biblical story - he doesn't shy away from mentioning Noah's documented age for example - but even the more outlandish aspects of the original story seem acceptable when presented here. Everything seems to be as it was meant to be.

God told Noah to build the Ark, gave his instructions and, as impossible as it all seems at first, everything that needs to happen, does happen. Thousands of animals are gathered and transported from lands far and wide, unbelievers are proved wrong, Noah is vindicated.

Instead of creating a sympathetic character in Noah, Maine has presented us with a single- and tough-minded man who is not immediately likeable - he hits his wife, brooks no opposition from anyone, does not take other people's opinions on board, is very stubborn indeed. I might have expected Noah to be a saintly figure who is blessed by God for his gentle ways ... the Noah Maine has given us is much more interesting. Noah's sons and daughters in law are similarly flawed characters - they have their likeable qualities and their more annoying traits ... just like real people!

This is a really great read ... even though parts of the story describe the end of the world as it was then, it still feels like a light, airy, feel-good read, full of hope for the future. I loved it.
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A simple tale, that we all know, stunningly retold with pathos and empathy. The author cleverly uses different voices, of Noah's family members, to retell his fable, offering alternative viewpoints of God's great cleansing. This mechanism not only dissects the various moral implications of inundating a populated planet, but also offers delightfully accurate vignette's of family life, that will resonate with nearly everybody.

I think most people, religious or otherwise will find something to take home from this novel. The very devout may take offence at some of the more graphic sections of the novel but most readers will enjoy it. The ending is terrific and offers much food for thought on the role organised religion should play in our society. Terrific stuff.
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on 15 May 2015
There was MASSIVE interest in the Noah film - and rightly so, what a stonking story! I hope to see the film at some point (too many films, not enough LIFE) . . . but, I ALSO have a couple of great books on my shelf which use the biblical story of Noah as a backdrop for some great fiction. So, this is the first of three brief book reviews!

'The Flood' by David Maine

This is a staggering book - drawing you right in to the time, the place, the whole feel of . . . well, humanity on the edge of a precipice! Earthy, honest language from a whole host of characters (we get Noe's perspective - Noah; and a bunch of his family share their stories - from totally devoted 'my father can do no wrong' to, 'dads a crackpot'). All this commentary on the crazy notion of an ark in the middle of nowhere and beautiful writing,

"The sun beats him like a rod. Around him the land quivers and ripples as if still just an idea in God's mind . . . . He wonders if he has made a mistake, then exiles that thought. If he has made a mistake, it means God has too."

The pages where Noe speaks himself are wondrous in their simplicity - this simple, straightforward man thrust into a bizarre and epic struggle to save his family and a bunch of animals . . . but, the voice I enjoyed the most was when his wife narrates, she refers to Noah as, 'Himself',

"Himself thrives on sacrifice. It's bread and meat to him, it's air, it's the blood in his marrow. If God ever stops asking for sacrifice, Himself won't know what to do with himself."

We come through the maelstrom and out the other side, Noe hears God speak and he beholds the sign of God's promise,

"Across the sky streaks a rainbow of such intensity it leaves Noe gasping. Spanning from horizon to horizon, it sprays down colour like an enormous prism, painting green fields with red, riverbanks with yellow, fruit trees with dazzling indigo. Even Noe's own shadow glows with a crisp blue sheen. He tries to speak but the words cower in his larynx. Then The Lord is gone - out of his head anyway - and Noe is alone again."

It is not the Bible. It is a work of fiction, but a fabulous rendering of the story. It is not a child's book. This is a grown up rebelling, nature red in tooth and claw - as is humanity, which is why God cleansed the world. It is powerful, sobering stuff - and will leave you wondering at what took place and what it meant for Noah and his family to get ready for it (for years) then live through hell on earth and come out the other side . . . It will also have you scurrying back to the scriptures to read the original.
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on 22 December 2006
This is one of those books I stumbled across purely by chance and it really was a pleasant surprise. The premise of taking such a well known Biblical story and then telling it from a variety of perspectives is incredibly effective and thought-provoking. Unlike other novels that try to utilise multiple narrators, there is actually a clear delineation in voice and the characterisation is impressive. It's also a surprisingly funny text and yet touching simultaneously. I definitely recommend this.
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on 7 October 2004
This book is brilliant. It's such a simple idea but carried out perfectly and in such an original way. I laughed half the way through and then I thought, "Geez, this is getting serious." And I found the end very moving indeed. Don't know if the Pope would like it but I sure did. Highly recommended.
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on 19 January 2010
I love this book. Like another reviewer I chanced upon it in a blessed moment of serendipity. Having meandered through various sects and denominations of the Christian church without ever feeling really confident in the characterisations given to God and his pals, I have become heartily sick of the narrowness of a lot of these groups. Apart from being a superb piece of literature this book is a breath of fresh air. As I write this I am busy sending a copy off to my daughter, and I am confident she will find it as beautifully inspiring as I did.
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on 15 May 2016
A clever tale that inspired by the bible, and narrated by the people within it. Brings to life the questions we wonder about what actually happened in the ark. The characters, based on those in the original story, are well imagined and believable, with notably strong women. By using each of them to tell their own version of events we can sympathise with their perspective and it keeps the story pace varied and interesting.
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