The Morningside by Téa Obreht - review by Isabel Brooks

Isabel Brooks

Don’t Mention the Program

The Morningside


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 304pp £20

Téa Obreht’s third novel, The Morningside, is set in the near future on a half-abandoned island beset by floods and food scarcity. The narrator, the eleven-year-old Sil, works as the maintenance officer of a labyrinthine apartment building while trying to follow the inexplicable rules set by her mother: never speaking in her native tongue; not complaining about her lack of education; refraining from questioning the ‘Repopulation Program’ that has brought them to where they are. Sil, wily but benign, scuttles around, fixing things and cringing with shame at the slightest misdemeanour. 

The book doesn’t grab the reader. The workings of the ‘Repopulation Program’ are set out in relentless detail. There are a number of baffling jumps. On the first page, Sil feels ‘dread’, but a beat later, she is described as being ‘the calmest [she’s] felt all week.’ And the story

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