Disclosure – I was sent a free copy of this book in return for an unbiased and fair review
‘It must have begun when my apple tree flourished and Sofia’s tree withered and died. Perhaps that was when Sofia first had an inkling that she didn’t belong.‘
London, 2050. The socio-economic crisis of recent decades is over and consumerism is thriving.
Ownership of land outside the city is the preserve of a tiny elite, and the rest of the population must spend to earn a Right to Reside. Ageing has been abolished thanks to a radical new approach, replacing retirement with blissful euthanasia at a Dignitorium.
When architect Philip goes missing, his wife, Alice, risks losing her home and her status, and begins to question the society in which she was raised. Her search for him uncovers some horrifying truths about the fate of her own family and the reality behind the new social order.
What I thought
One of the first things to bring up about this book is it’s not a genre book. It’s about forced euthanasia and although I’ve read books about the same premise, they were dystopian sci-fi books. This isn’t that… it’s not about fighting the system, or ‘the guy’ being bad and people trying to stop all the killings. This is the way things are and everyone is ok with that.
Most of these books are about a disenfranchised kid/teenager (and as you know I love YA) so is the only one who can truly see how evil all of this is. The main character is a middle aged teacher – Alice is just your normal everyday person. She doesn’t hate the system, she understands it and why it’s needed, as well as how it helps society and makes everything better for everyone. This is just how the world is and pretty much everyone is ok with it. And the people who aren’t ok with it live outside the city walls, people even donate any items they don’t want to them. They aren’t saying these people are bad but as of any society if you don’t agree with the rules you have to leave. They’ll do what they can to persuade you but they are humans and can make their own decisions.
As a teacher Alice explains to teenagers why this is a good idea and how everything is better because it rewards people who put into society. It doesn’t matter how much you earn or don’t earn, you don’t have to put minuscule amounts into savings for your retirement and hope you can afford a home that’s not terrible. Everyone gets exactly the same. Well within the three class boundaries. But even the low spender dignitoriums look after you and your guaranteed a happy year before you get taken peacefully away with a final goodbye to all your family.
She’s such a great character because she’s so normal, she’s just an every day person. There isn’t anything particularly special or different about her. She finds herself in a situation where she has to be downgraded to a lower spending class due her husbands disappearance and presumed death. What’s great is how she realistically falls into depression and has to pull herself out of it, and depression allows her to look at the world in a slightly different way. She attaches herself to child with Downs Syndrome because her smile is so big that it can’t help but lift some of the fog. But because she has Downs she’ll never be able to contribute to society. But even then Alice doesn’t think the whole system should be torn down.
I feel like I’ve short changed this book by not saying much but its so brilliant because it’s so different from what is excepted and how these kind of stories normally play out. It’s such a character focused story not a normal genre ‘fight the system’ one and there is a worry with such stories that the characters aren’t strong enough. But even with her depression and maybe because of it and her humanity she is easily able to hold the weight of the story.
Why I read it
I was looking forward to reading this one after first seeing it in the trade magazine from Eye and Lightening but as I’d taken a break from my blog was quite happy to wait until it came out to read it (31st Jan). I left a comment on twitter saying I was looking forward to it and within minutes I had a message from them saying they had sent me a copy and had it not turned up yet? The next day an e-book copy was sitting in my inbox and I started it the day after that.
But aside from being sent a copy to review I was honestly looking forward to reading a non-dystopian version of forced euthanasia.
At the heart of this book is a story of a woman with depression whose estranged from her sister and her husband is missing and trying to make her way in the world. It’s about her finding her way in the world when she’s suddenly not got her safety blanket and has to work out where to go from there and who her friends are.
It’s a beautiful story that’s also scary and has moments of true horror, finding out the weekly Mass – religion – is effectively the shopping channel was definitely one of them.
Did I enjoy it: Yes!
Would I read it again: Yes!
Am I glad I read it: Yes!
Would I recommend.?I’m planning on giving this book to multiple people across a range of generations. basically if you know me and like books then chances are you’ll be getting it for your birthday.
What I’m trying to say is that everyone should go read this book
PopSugar: Published in 2019, two word title
Hope everyone is doing ok. I’m aiming to do a blog birthday post this weekend and hopefully start getting ahead of myself again.
(Also my completed list of 2018 challenges which I finished on 19th December)
P.S My next review is American Panda by Gloria Chao