editor's choice





Acclaimed Scottish writer Ewan Morrison sets his latest book, How To Survive Everything, in a pandemic world. Sound familiar? Here though, we witness it through the eyes of young Haley, fifteen years old when she and brother Ben are first spirited away to a secret hideaway carefully prepared by their seemingly paranoid father, Ed, for them to survive the world disaster he sees coming. It’s here they eke out their days, in the company of others, including hippy Meg and her son, Danny, who’s a couple of years older than Haley.

It is Haley who makes this novel work so successfully, her voice acutely realised and perfectly pitched. Haley is in many ways a typical teenager, dealing with the angst that comes with her age but also the pain of her parents’ quite bitter divorce. Funny, smart, observant and questioning, she’s the perfect protagonist, dealing with – I was going to write the unimaginablewell, dealing with a changing world, in much confined circumstances, and living by new rules and instructions on how to live. How she deals with this, her reactions and actions, inform what is a very good book indeed.

Early on, we’re treated to a breakdown of How to abduct your children, which is poignant, heart-rending and hilarious. It includes Ed preparing Haley and Ben for the end of the world essentially by taking them on a series of ‘Vaventures’, little outings involving such treats as turning all the power out and eating ‘blackout breakfast’ at 4am in candlelight, scavenging for branches on a snowy hill to build a bivouac and tricking them into helping with the final steps of their own abduction.

Through Haley we see the humour and the absurdity of these situations, and then also the realisation that this is her new normal, a strange, perplexing and frightening world she now has to learn to navigate.

This is a beautiful book in many ways, certainly one that makes one think. Yes, it’s a pandemic novel – but it’s also an exploration of love in all its guises, emerging, enduring, failed, set against an all too real dystopian setting, full of broken people trying to survive. Highly recommended.


How to survive everything | Ewan Morrison | March 2021 | Contraband | paperback | £9.99

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours, as always, and to the publisher, Contraband, an imprint of Saraband, for sending us a review copy. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other wonderful reviewers on this tour and please share them.

Also of interest: ‘’Alice Walker and the power of poetry‘; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Sylvia Plath on poetry‘; ‘WB Yeats, “The Journey of the Magi“‘; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is copyright © 2021 by The Literary Shed. All rights are reserved. All opinions expressed are our own. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please contact us for permission and provide the necessary credit. Thank you so much. We welcome your feedback.





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