Avery Hill Publishing originally announced The Flood That Did Come last fall yet Patrick Wray’s book couldn’t feel more timely, as it looks at how a small, British village responds during a natural disaster. For weeks it’s been raining nonstop, and Pennyworth has stayed above water. Other villages in the area, though, are underwater and, with the rain still going, Pennyworth isn’t out of the woods just yet.
Between the wildfires in California and Oregon and the Covid-19 pandemic, reading a book about floods might not sound very enticing and if Wray had taken a more serious tone with this story, it probably would be too much right now, but The Flood That Did Come is about denial and how wanting something to be true can make people put up blinders to what’s really going on.
Again, reading this book in 2020 is a different experience and some of the lines that would’ve seemed funny or absurd are turning out to be scarily on the money these days, but Wray’s twist on a British Dick and Jane is dark comedy gold and an unexpected vehicle for this story.
Tom and Jenny exemplify the British, stiff upper lip philosophy. Doesn’t matter that a ton of people have drowned. Their village is going to be different. A little rain never hurt anyone. Focusing on futile tasks, like watering plants in the rain, if you’ve ever seen Richard Lester’s The Bed Sitting Room, this book has a similar sense of humor. “It’s rather exciting isn’t it Jenny? Being caught in the midst of a crisis like this?” Tom asks his sister, and it doesn’t get much more privileged than that.
Using woodblock stamps, Wray is able to replicate the tone of Dick and Jane early readers. Tom and Jenny have a very monotone way of speaking and the ridiculous size of some of their speech blocks, where none of the dialogue gets broken up, reflects their lack of self-awareness.
Many of the stamps are recycled, with Wray altering them slightly or cutting them off so they look different or involve a different facial expression. The stamps for Tom and Jenny are identical to the stamps used for Jim and Charlotte, for example. The only difference is Tom and Jenny are blue while Jim and Charlotte are red, but it doesn’t have to be any more drastic than that.
Wray’s limited color palette works because it’s consistent. Starting with the cover, Wray sets it up so Pennyworth is blue, and anyone associated with Brook Falls is red. Jim and Charlotte are red. Their boat is red and even the title is red because that’s who’s coming, too. Brook Falls is one of the town’s that’s underwater and now they want to assert their claim over Pennyworth. It’s every town for themselves and while Wray has these events taking place in 2036 (which is still only sixteen years away), that date is starting to feel overly optimistic. Remember when the future used to be jet packs, not doom?
The Flood That Did Come is on sale now from Avery Hill Publishing.