The Wall

The Wall
Image source: Google

Rating: 4.1/5

Author: John Lanchester

Publisher: W.W. Norton Company

Publishing Date: January 2019

Language: English

Genre: Dystopian Fiction

ISBN-10: 1324001631

ISBN-13: 978-1324001638

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Cost: Rs. 445.81 (Paperback), Rs. 244.30 (Kindle Edition), Rs. 1,452 (Hardcover)


Ravaged by the Change, an island nation in a time very like our own has built the Wall―an enormous concrete barrier around its entire coastline. Joseph Kavanagh, a new Defender, has one task: to protect his section of the Wall from the Others, the desperate souls who are trapped amid the rising seas outside and are a constant threat. Failure will result in death or a fate perhaps worse: being put to sea and made an Other himself. Beset by cold, loneliness, and fear, Kavanagh tries to fulfil his duties to his demanding Captain and Sergeant, even as he grows closer to his fellow Defenders. A dark part of him wonders whether it would be interesting if something did happen if they came, if he had to fight for his life.


The story is set sometime in the near future. A major climate event has occurred, causing sea levels to rise. There are no beaches left in the world. Many countries have built a wall around their entire coastline, to prevent the ‘Others’ from entering. These ‘others’ can refer to migrants if you look at the political scenario in the contemporary world.

The novel takes place in an unnamed island country- can be in UK, where a wall has been erected around its entire perimeter.  Because the citizens of this country have sufficient resources, they are worried about Others coming and taking what they think is rightfully theirs.

In Britain, it is mandatory for young people to carry out national service, protecting the border. The draftees who serve on the Wall are given a name, called ‘Defenders’, trained to kill ‘Others’ who attempt to enter the country via sea. Kavanagh is one such Defender and he is also the narrator of the story.

You can almost feel the sense of resentment carried by Kavanagh and his folks:

“…the change was not a single solitary event. We speak of it in that manner because here we experienced one particular shift, of sea level and weather, over a period of years it is true, but it felt then and when we look back on it today still feels like an incident that happened, a defining moment in time with a before and an after. There was our parents’ world, and now there is our world."

It’s a well thought out and a visionary concept. Lanchester reveals with absolute control and with no hasty treatment- the cruelties of his manufactured universe and then pulls the readers into it with the philosophical after-effects.

‘The Wall’ in its direct style of addressing is kind of an alarm; we all should wake up to until it’s too late. Lanchester winds up a thrilling tale which is heart-warming but also rightfully addresses our current anxieties.

Milestones of the Book:

  • Longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize

About the Author:

John Lanchester was born in Hamburg in 1962. He grew up in the Far East, but was educated in England. A former editor at the publishers Penguin, he is a member of the editorial board of the London Review of Books, and is a regular contributor to several newspapers and magazines, including Granta, the New Yorker and The Observer, for whom he was restaurant critic, and the Daily Telegraph, for whom he writes a weekly column.

His first novel, the highly acclaimed ‘The Debt to Pleasure’ (1996), is the erudite and unorthodox autobiography of sinister gourmet Tarquin Winot. It won the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Betty Trask Prize, the Hawthornden Prize, and an American prize, the Julia Child Award for 'literary food writing'. The novel has been translated into 20 languages.

His second book, the novel ‘Mr. Phillips’ (2000), is an interior monologue narrating the inner thoughts and fantasies of a redundant 50-year-old accountant. Fragrant Harbour (2002), set in Hong Kong, was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction).

John Lanchester's most recent works are a book of memoir, Family Romance (2007); three books of non-fiction- Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay (2010), What We Talk About When We Talk About the Tube: The District Line (2013) and How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say-And What It Really Means (2014); and the novel Capital (2012).