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Noah's Castle

A book by John Rowe Townsend

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An interesting moral dilemma set in the context of the economic collapse of a society

  • Jul 19, 2010
The geographic location is England but the historical setting is Germany in the early 1920's. Without giving any real explanation for the cause, the author projects a bout of hyperinflation in England, where the pound rapidly loses its' value. Little is said about the rest of the world, but what clues we are given indicate that the hyperinflation is localized in England.
Norman Mortimer is a businessman that anticipates the coming economic storm and suddenly relocates his family to a castle. There is an enormous basement that Norman stocked with a large amount of food and other supplies. He had lived through the Great Depression of the 1930's, spent a lot of time being hungry and he vowed that would never happen to his family.
As Norman had predicted, the collapse takes place and he orders everyone in his family to keep silent about their stores. As things worsen in the country, the inept government makes criminals out of the "hoarders", anyone that had the sense to stock up on food. They are declared criminals, subject to confiscation, fines and jail terms. This isolates the Mortimer family and creates tensions inside the group, as they know people that they want to help. Some help is provided, but in many ways it makes things worse as people start believing that they are hoarders.
As was the case in Germany, the greatest sufferers are the elderly and infirm, even if they have food stored up it does them no good. Pensions rapidly deteriorate to the point of being worthless and there is an expansion of the public assistance programs. However, these programs are not adequate to serve the enormous number of people that need it and some of the volunteers in the food program embezzle food. There are official prices but a black market flourishes using foreign currencies that are unaffected.
The people generally are split into those that maintain their social morals and try to help others to those that ruthlessly exploit others or demand private confiscation of food. However, the real moral point to consider is the actions of Nathan Mortimer, a man that is devoted to his family and wants them to survive, yet the extremes that he goes to alienates them. It is an interesting moral dilemma to consider, as he clearly is not evil or self-centered, all of his actions are based on increasing the odds that the people in his family unit will survive.
Some people that are now approximately middle aged interacted heavily with relatives that struggled to survive during the Great Depression of the 1930's. I am one of them, my great-grandparents and grandparents talked a great deal about their lives in the 1930's, to some of them moldy bread was a luxury. Decades later, they still were cautious in their dealings and always had cupboards and pantries that were stocked to overflowing. Therefore, I can relate somewhat to the actions of Nathan Mortimer, he sounds a lot like my relatives that vowed that their dependents would never go hungry and meant to keep that vow even if they suffered in other ways.

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review by . July 19, 2010
I was recently contacted by a publisher asking if I was interested in reading a title that they had available. The book was Noah's Castle by John Rowe Townsend. This offer came from the review I did of One Second After, and Noah's Castle walks in the same general genre. Even though this was initially released in 1975 and was targeted as a young adult offering, it aged well and speaks to all readers regardless of age. I found myself reading "just one more chapter", and this morning I'm suffering …
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Charles Ashbacher ()
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Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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About this book



The coming winter was going to be a bad one - and not because of the weather.

Sixteen-year-old Barry Mortimer's life turns upside down when his father suddenly moves the family from their comfortable modern home in the city to a decaying old mansion on the outskirts of town. Strange and mysterious events follow.

Why isn't anyone allowed to visit their new home? What is Father doing in the basement and why is he keeping it a secret?

As rumors of skyrocketing prices and food shortages become a full-fledged economic meltdown, Barry's world begins to crumble. Can his family hold together as a nation collapses around them?



Written by award-winning author John Rowe Townsend, Noah's Castle tells the story of a family trying to survive a total collapse of the British economy. Money becomes worthless, unemployment skyrockets, and food and other goods become scarce.

As conditions worsen and people begin to starve, how do people react? When does law-and-order break down and civilized behavior end? How do people balance the needs of their family against those of society?

Noah's Castle examines these questions but doesn't provide easy answers, resulting in a thrilling and thought-provoking story of survival.

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ISBN-10: 0978545710
ISBN-13: 978-0978545710
Author: John Rowe Townsend
Publisher: October Mist Publishing

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