A super-rich Manhattan family shows its will to survive as the dollar collapses.
There are plenty of zippy novels about the end of the world but Lionel Shriver has had a different idea.
The devastation in The Mandibles is monetary – its effect is to destroy the US economy so completely that the impoverished hordes are fleeing to Mexico.
The formerly wealthy – who had installed themselves in France – must now go home because the almighty dollar is worth nothing – replaced as the international currency by the ‘bancor’.
Your head may be spinning because the details of finance are more abstruse than nuclear exchange – asteroid impacts or the second coming – but as she follows her characters through sufferings and accommodations – Shriver manages to make her case –
– that civilisation is a delicate network and what we have – even if that is only toilet paper and socks – is precious.
As the dollar collapses American exceptionalism morphs into general lawlessness and disrepair – though a smartphone-like gadget called a ‘fleX’ and the internet continue to be of use.
The New York Times has fallen by the wayside – nothing is said about the Guardian.
The energy of Shriver’s style counteracts the remorselessness of her vision.
The world that the Mandible family must negotiate is evoked in seamless detail: what they are able to buy – how they feed themselves – what they must throw away –
– the loss of all their possessions until their lost prosperity is represented only by a set of monogrammed silverware that they take with them when they have to escape on foot from the house where they have all gathered.