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Pre-orders shipped to arrive on publication day: 21st February 2025

ISBN: 9781915789341


The companion novel to the international best-seller 'The Whale at the End of the World'


When young idealist Tom publicly humiliates politician Monty in a Cornish pub, it sparks a simmering feud that cascades through their intertwined lives. The consequences of their argument, and the deadly wager they strike, will cascade down the decades. Years later, they find themselves a long way from St Piran onto a colossal iceberg drifting south away from Greenland, their only companion a starving polar bear.


This is a heart-stopping tale of anger, tragedy, and enduring love, cast against the long unfolding backdrop of an irreversible global crisis.



MEDIA REVIEWS for 'The Whale at the End of the World':


'This is a tremendously enjoyable book. And as the front pages crowd with headlines that grow ever more grim, Not Forgetting the Whale offers a very welcome alternative. - Marianne Levy, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY


'The lives of the residents in sleepy St Piran is changed when a man washes up, half drowned, on the shore of the Cornish seaside village.' - THE TIMES


'It's a love story of sorts and, above all, it's about the innate goodness of people and our connections with the wider world' - PRESS ASSOCIATION


'A gentle and uplifting tale of warding off apocalypse in a remote corner of Cornwall . . . charming\' - FINANCIAL TIMES


'This book achieves what should be impossible: a heart-warming dystopia. Forget everything you know about apocalypses. This novel, set in Cornwall, will restore your faith in humanity.' - ELLE UK


About the Author


John Ironmonger was born and grew up in East Africa. He has a doctorate in zoology, and was once an expert on freshwater leeches. He is the author of The Good Zoo Guide and the novels The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder (shortlisted for the 2012 Costa First Novel Prize and the Guardian‘s Not the Booker Prize), The Coincidence Authority and The Whale at the End of the World (an international bestseller). He has also been part of a world record team for speed reading Shakespeare, has driven across the Sahara in a £100 banger, and once met Jared Diamond in a forest in the middle of Sumatra.


Comment from the Author:


Climate change is the biggest story of our time, yet very few novelists are ready to grapple with this. Ten centuries from now, if humanity is still around, I suspect historians will only be interested in one story from our generation - how we responded (or failed to respond) to this existential threat to the planet. Science fiction, in general, has done us rather a disservice here. Writers have sold us either Mad Max-style desert dystopias, or impossible tales of starships taking survivors to new green planets. What we don’t have are real world stories that could help us to imagine the kind of earth we are creating. And that is a shame, because imagination is what we need, now more than ever. Once again, timescales seem to be the challenge. Novelists need a central protagonist with whom readers can identify. This character needs to have a story arc, and human dramas are typically too short for climate change to feature very much. There is a second problem too. It is hard to imagine any character playing anything but a very minor role in what is a huge global drama. No one is going to step forward like Bruce Willis and save the world. For a writer, that is an unhelpful backdrop. We do not like to set up a jeopardy for our characters, without giving them some way to fight back. But how do you fight back against a warming planet? In ‘The Wager and the Bear’ I hope I may have found a way to navigate a little around these two problems.


The narrative unfolds over a whole human lifetime, and the central characters are front-seat observers of the climate disaster. The story involves two young men. One, Monty, is a politician. He is a climate change-denier. He lives in a grand house on the beach in Cornwall. He has a splendid lifestyle, and like so many of us in the slow-motion train crash, he doesn’t see the precipice approaching. The second man, Tom, is a climate scientist and campaigner. One drunken night, over too many glasses of cider in the local inn, the two men get into a quarrel. It ends with a deadly wager. In fifty years, either the sea will rise enough to drown Monty in his home, or Tom will accept the jeopardy himself, and will walk into the sea and drown. A video of the wager, posted online, goes viral. How will it all work out? Well we have fifty years for the story to unfold. The lives of the two men cross several times, leading them both onto a melting glacier, and ultimately onto an iceberg floating down the coast of Greenland where their only companion is a hungry bear. The story is not entirely without hope. It is set against the backdrop of a campaign to restore some of what the world has lost. Neither Monty nor Tom can save the world. But there is at least hope, as well as despair. Climate change doesn’t have to be front and centre in contemporary fiction. But we shouldn’t be ignoring it either. As writers we have a responsibility, sometimes, to make the future seem real. We are hurtling towards a world of human-made disasters, of dying oceans, of rising seas, of failing harvests, of droughts, of economic collapse, and of climate-driven conflicts. We cannot ignore these things. If these aren’t part of our fictional landscape now, then they need to be. Otherwise one day we may find we have just five years left. And it won’t just be the news readers weeping.

The Wager and the Bear by John Ironmonger

Will ship in publication month February 2025

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