The story of a rebellious woman and the power of our stories, even in a world where truth is not welcome
The True History of Jude is an epistolary novel about a bleak dystopian future in which the geopolitical structure of the world has drastically changed. Due to massive environmental upheaval caused by climate change, many countries, including Australia, face grave uncertainty about the future of their cities and the people who live in them.
When a pivotal moment strikes in the form of a tsunami, a complex political plan years in the making is triggered and the fates of millions are rewritten in an instant.
One hundred years into this new world order we find Susan Bridehead, an eminent historian. We learn about her through letters to a friend in America she calls Alex. She has been tasked with writing the history of her country from its inception after the tsunami, but her history must be approved at the highest levels, and so it must match the official version of events. Basically, it must not tell the truth.
At the age of seventy, Sue is experiencing worrying symptoms and is convinced her body is in decline. Perhaps this is why she dares to defy the law and begin to write what she calls a “true history,” namely the story of her prior life in the lawless lands back in Australia. Curiously she tells the story through the eyes of someone she knew there, Jude, rather than her own.
Because of this, the reader is never really sure how much of Sue’s story is actually true. Everything we see is in either a letter to Alex or Sue’s version of events as she thinks they might have seemed through the eyes of Jude. Add to this the fact that memories are often unreliable in and of themselves, and the whole book is given an eerie dreamlike feeling. It really does make the mind go in circles.
Fittingly, the elements of Jude and Sue’s backstory—the setting, people, and challenges to cover basic necessities—are visceral, but similarly dreamlike and even at times nightmarish. Their story takes place among the people left behind on the devastated Australian continent. They are complex and imperfect people trying to make any kind of life for themselves and make any kind of sense of this horrifyingly imperfect world.
They must navigate a society in which the systems that are supposed to be in place need to be reinvented and completely rebuilt. After the collapse, everything needs to be figured out again: language, religion, economy, currency, power, goods, labor, basic know-how, and craftsmanship. And every one of these is open to being corrupted or perverted by the wrong person. Every community is left to its own devices and so evolves in its own way.
It is striking how different people react to the same events in drastically different ways.
Though very accessible to any genre reader, this book is highly recommended to those interested in near-future stories with chillingly possible trajectories. The political and social issues depicted are thought-provoking, and thus it would be excellent for book clubs that enjoy serious discussions.
In many ways, it is a thought experiment with a terrifying premise: What would happen if the greatest powers in the world—those of government, military, and corporations were to join forces or be joined under a single will? As such, it is a look at how change can come gradually or in a single cataclysmic event. Of how freedoms can be slowly whittled away even if it’s obvious what is happening because no one has any idea what to do about it. Is there even anything to do about it, once such forces are at work?
Thank you for your interest in my latest novel, available here on Amazon (Kindle and paperback), Apple, Kobo, and other vendors – Stuart Campbell.