Connie Noble is a retired science teacher and passionate environmentalist, but feels helpless to change the things that are sending us toward a climate disaster. Having marched, started petitions, and even run a climate website, she’s at her wits end – until she’s diagnosed with a serious illness. She’s rarely travelled, so goes to New York on the Queen Mary as a final treat, but also plans an audacious and heroic protest to make the world finally sit up and listen…before it’s too late.
Amidst the tragedies and challenges of the current global pandemic, it’s hard to imagine humanity facing any greater threat. Yet alongside everything we’re facing, the climate crisis is worsening every day, and, on its current trajectory, will vastly overshadow Covid-19 as the defining disaster of our generation – Connie Noble is a novel that brings this sharply into focus.
It’s fitting then, that this is the urgent and moving subject of Richard Cavalieri’s first novel. Surely there is no better concept for a book for our times, than one that tackles the ecocide that humanity will be guilty of. In this page-turning story, we learn how Connie Noble, primarily an armchair activist, is moved to enact the ultimate protest on behalf of the planet, because of a personal crossroads that in her mind leaves her little choice.
Connie’s character is well-crafted and nuanced. She’s intelligent, principled and more than a little belligerent (she has taken particular umbrage against the high-emission SUVs in her North London neighbourhood). But perhaps that’s justified, since she’s living alone, with children and grandchildren living on the other side of the world, watching the world spiral into chaos and not feeling heard by those around her.
Connie’s ‘Damascus Road’ moment is the result of learning difficult personal news that promises her life will change forever. Cavalieri depicts this in a way that is sensitive whilst also being true to life, taking us through the classic stages of disbelief, anger and acceptance that are so typical traits of human behaviour in the face of personal adversity. His protagonist is the archetypal everywoman, proving that there’s no need for money or power to make altruistic choices or take a stand; just a willingness to put the planet above oneself.
Determined to steer her fate in a direction for the good of the world, she embarks on a mission that teaches her more than any climate change article. As she inhabits a lifestyle she never usually would, we observe through her the flaws and idiosyncrasies of human nature, and watch, like a fly on the wall, as her outspoken attempts to recalibrate the moral compass of those she encounters fall largely on deaf ears.
Facts and figures from Cavalieri’s diligent research pepper the narrative – the book will leave you better informed about the actions and policies that ‘move the dial’ in terms of saving the planet, and his vivid character sketches throughout the story illustrate the human attitudes that stand in the way of its recovery.
Cavalieri has laced Connie Noble with dark humour and frequent expletives which keeps it entertaining to read and ensures that in spite of the serious subject matter, it doesn’t come across as overly virtuous or earnest. Connie is the gin-drinking, long-suffering older parent, in-law or neighbour we all know, who doesn’t suffer fools.
It’s this unfettered passion that catches the attention of classical guitarist Russell, and leads her into an unexpected dalliance that distracts her from her life goal. As the novel twists and turns we follow Connie’s dilemma to choose between her personal happiness and societal good; an analogy that perfectly mirrors the challenges facing each of us as we choose between consumerism and sustainable living.
At its climax, Cavalieri leaves no holes barred in his fictionalized account of one of the most sobering acts of protest taken against the climate crisis. Filled with suspense, realism and philosophical truth, this novel is determined to shake us from our apathy and make us present in the world we inhabit.
‘I think we’re right on the edge, and what we do in the next ten years is vital in maintaining a habitable planet. I’ve been a comedy writer for many years, but decided I had to do something about climate change. My daughter was twelve when she first spoke at marches – a few years before Greta Thunberg - but still nothing has changed significantly enough to make a difference. It was an incident that took place in New York in April 2018 gave me the idea, and during the time of writing I was overwhelmed by the amount of government inaction, this of course fanned the flames of my anger - and of course Connie’s. I think the reason I decided to do a fiction and not a factual book was simple; I wanted it to be a human story; passionate, funny and evocative - not all doom and gloom.’
Buy Now: Connie Noble Available in ebook, hardbackand paperback on Amazon and at Waterstones.