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Noah's Castle

A book by John Rowe Townsend

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Balancing obedience, loyalty, and society's needs...

  • Jul 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 a bit for not going to bed earlier.

The story is set in England, and life is hard (and getting harder). There's an economic crisis, and inflation is starting to make it harder to afford basic goods. Barry Mortimer, a 16-year-old typical teenager, lives with his three other siblings, his mother, and a very controlling and autocratic father. Norman, the father, sees the deteriorating economy and buys a large fortress-like home without consulting anyone. He moves the family to their new abode (something that didn't go over well with any of them), and then starts becoming secretive about his activities in the basement. It turns out he's starting to buy and barter to obtain a massive store of food to weather the crisis. As hyperinflation kicks in, millions go hungry, but the Mortimer family is still doing fine. But Norman's dictatorial obsession over hoarding is driving his family away from him as they see others going without. To increase the tension, hoarding is now considered a crime, and Norman knows that a single phone call could destroy everything he's done to provide for his family. As people start to notice his family's lack of activity to gather food, Norman's world becomes more fragile (along with his mental stability).

The reason this is considered a young adult novel is that it's written in first-person from the point of view of Barry. He's been raised to be loyal to his father and to obey, but he has major problems reconciling his abundance with the poverty and need around him. He's walking a fine line between keeping things quiet and helping those who ask (without appearing to have an abundance himself). As the reader, I kept shifting my opinion of Norman between uncaring for others over providing for his family. I was also intrigued by the societal shifts and how easy it is for something like hyperinflation to feed on itself with no conceivable end in sight. Townsend doesn't go into great detail about the mechanics behind why England found themselves in this situation, but it's still a sobering look at how difficult life could be in that situation.

Noah's Castle is a very good read, made even more interesting given the 35 year gap between the original story and today.

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review by . July 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 …
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Thomas Duff ()
Ranked #43
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … 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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