Sunken Lands: A Journey Through Flooded Kingdoms and Lost Worlds by Gareth E Rees - review by Richard Smyth

Richard Smyth

Après Moi, le Déluge

Sunken Lands: A Journey Through Flooded Kingdoms and Lost Worlds

By

Elliott & Thompson 272pp £16.99
 

‘There have been many ends of the world,’ writes Gareth E Rees. ‘But the end’, he goes on, ‘is also a beginning, another turn of the wheel. Nothing really dies; it just changes.’

It depends, I suppose, on your perspective. The story of Noah’s Ark is an origin story, looked at one way – Noah’s way. From everyone else’s point of view, it’s a pretty definitive ending. But really we ought to be grateful that Rees is able to find some glimmers of hope as the dark waters close in, because, of course, this is a book that’s not only about Atlantis and Doggerland, Lyonesse and the Lowland Hundred. It’s also about us, our own rising seas and subsiding shores, our own hubris and inaction, our own future (such as it is). We can, Rees says, learn ‘valuable lessons’ from the ‘ancestral voices’ beneath the waves – but, as Sunken Lands makes clear, these are lessons that ought to have been learned a long time ago, and that from where we stand now, on the brink, can’t amount to much more than a handful of what-might-have-beens.

Rees begins his exploration at Pett Level beach in East Sussex, a stretch of drowned prehistoric forest not far from his Hastings home, where ancient tree stumps – once known as Noah’s Woods – are exposed at low tide. Here he reflects not only on the ravages of flood and

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