'it's the choosing that's important, isn't it?'

This week [or at least, today] I am a happy blogger, basking in the memory of my hot tub holiday this past weekend. Anglesey, a wooden lodge with private jetty and hot tub and some of my favourite people. I'm pretty sure it doesn't get much better than that. We had the nicest of times: walks on the beach and butterfly houses and the zoo and steam trains and films and lazy mornings and drinking gin in the hot tub and sardines and lots of giggling.

And lots of reading.

I finished The Subtle Knife, which well, the thing about Pullman is he is obviously a 'very good writer' - I know this because somehow I had forgotten all about the high levels of hurty in the His Dark Materials trilogy  and was totally focussed how beautiful they are, I was excited to reread because THESE BOOKS ARE SO BEAUTIFUL and then was stabbed in the chest all over again by the hurty. And now? How do I feel now, after finishing book 2? I feel like I love those books so much because they're so beautiful and I am scared to reread The Amber Spyglass because the other two have reminded me that that one hurts the most.

Then, I read The Giver by Lois Lowry.

I'd heard of this but never read it and was nudged in its direction by Jen. I loved it; I literally could not put it down, to the extent that I was making breakfast for the boys on Sunday morning and was reading whilst cooking sausages and frying eggs, with a tear in my eye. I loves me a good dystopia, that's no secret and this, whilst being a YA novel and whilst trying to trick you in the beginning into think it's a utopia, is what I would call a good dystopia.

Jonas lives in a perfect world where everything is tightly controlled, tightly monitored, carefully watched and on the surface, faultless. In Jonas's world there is no war or fear or pain but on the flipside there is no love, no joy. There is only Sameness. In Jonas's world there are no choices; your spouse, your children, your place in the community, all of it is chosen for you and you never even think to question the lot that you are given; why would you, when your life is perfect and you have all you could ever want or need? However, when Jonas turns twelve, everything changes. Jonas meets The Giver and is forced to question everything and everybody he thought he knew and so, along with Jonas we find ourselves asking whether in order to get rid of the suffering in the world do you also have to lose all that makes life livable, all that is good? If the only way to stop evil is to also stop love, is there any point; is it worth it? What is our purpose, what is choice; what would our life be like without purpose and without choice; can you have the good if you don't have the bad and is that bad so bad that it makes the good a worthwhile sacrifice; can you miss what you never knew; are there any benefits to Sameness?

The obvious comparisons to draw here given what I've read of late are to The Hunger Games - young adults, dystopian future, etc. Those books aren't the same as this one, but in the way that The Hunger Games are not the best written books ever but grab your interest and hold it, so does The Giver. It makes you think and I like that in a book. I like to be forced to think, to question, to look at what I have and to appreicate it that little bit more and to a degree this book does all of thise things.
There are disturbing and complex themes in this book that Lowry does not shy away from. I applaud her for that - this book is going to hit its target audience smack bang in the chest, it's going to make them feel, it's going to make them hurt, it's going to make them think and whilst it's no Handmaid's, no 1984, it can hardly be expected to be and for what it is, it's good.  The concept is clever and well executed, the characters well rounded and each with their own clear voice and above all it really highlights the whole issue surrounding banned books; it's kind of ironic really that a book that at it's very core is about the importance of choice should be a book that found itself on the banned books list, thus taking away the choice to read it.  This is not a happy-ever-after walk in the park feel good novel, it's not, but I'm really glad I read it.

Comments

  1. There are two 'sequel-esque' books as well :) I've yet to read those, but they're on my to-read pile.

    Now. Please go and read 'The Age of Miracles' by Karen Thompson Walker.

    That is all.

    PS I love you. x

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