Speachless. Enraged. Terrified. Disturbed. Confused. Worried. Gripped. Can’t wait to recommend. I didn’t even need 100 words.
Vox tells the story of Jean McClellan. A married mother of four who is living a nightmare. A new government has passed laws on feminism and women must now wear a “bracelet” that allows them a 100 word a day limit before they are shocked by 1000 volts of electricity. Females have to give up their right to read, write and speak. No passports. A new zealous movement wants women to be seen and not heard. To become pillars of virtue and be kept at home. Jean is forced into a situation against her will and for the sake of herself and her daughter she has to make tough choices.
From the outset my emotions ran riot. I know a plot has me hooked when I begin to feel the emotions along with the characters. The outrage, dispair and panic I was awash with within these pages makes me recommend this to anyone.
The writing at the beginning is emotive and captures the mood so that you feel part of the action along with Jean. She is flawed. Her family isn’t perfect and she has regrets about her life. At one point she gets drunk and uses her last words to swear at her neighbours. This makes her so relatable! There are a few scenes with her son Steven who is growing up and being educated in this new age. These exchanges leave you genuinely anguished, as you wonder how far a mothers love can truly stretch. And how much you could communicate with so little language available. The dialogue with Steven also goes to show how easily a young mind could be indoctrinated to any ideal. How little advantages and prizes can coerce children to whatever is required. There are parallels to Hitler youth when her daughter comes home from school having been treated to ice cream for having the lowest word count that day. She is angry that her mum wants her to talk.
The main dystopian theme is well developed at the start. Women’s rights are revoked in response to the male leaders wanting to quieten women for making too many protests. When you relate to such current movements as the #metoo and, if like me have heard so many of the aging population talking about “women nowadays taking things too far” it is scary how even some women are now changing their thinking because of a minority of feminism that is becoming radicalised. You have people wanting to go back to a simpler time.
If you have read A Handmaid’s Tale then I fear this book may not quite live up in terms of exploration of theme and cohesiveness that that novel contained. But nonetheless it has it’s own merit. Much more action and attatchment which I enjoyed.
The plot unfolds rapidly with only a week between the first and last page. This makes it easy to get drawn in. But at the same time leaves you feeling a bit lost when it ends and you need more.
The very political nature of the story is timely, and horrifyingly, something that doesn’t seem out with the realms of possibility. It gives incredible contrasts and actually mentions other episodes in history such as Rwanda where the rest of the world knew horrors were taking place but did not intervene. More than once character make reference to the Edmund Burke quote ”
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
This theme runs from the very start of the book and many points make you reflect.
The second half of the book moves from Jean as mother and the enclosed home life to a fast paced race against time affair. She goes from a stay at home mum to Indiana Jones and the change in pace leads to a move in connection. You aren’t as hooked on the emotional side but the action is gripping. It touches on working motherhood in an interesting way with many of the male characters while trying to be supportive about the changes, are secretly delighted.
I don’t think I could say it was a race to the conclusion as for me it seemed a dead give away, but I still enjoyed the story as it developed so quickly. Lots of little sidenotes where you are given more information to squirrel away and make your own judgements. What would you do if you were Jean?
The characterisation stayed strong until the end and so it was a success for me.
Apologies, I still find it so hard to write up book reviews without giving away major plot twists!!
Please let me know if you have read it and what you took away. And if you go on to read it then let me know how you get on.
I have a copy here if anyone wants to pick it up!