Admittedly, this was a strange book for me to read. I'm used to Allegra Goodman as an adult writer, heavy on character nuance and murkier with plot. FAdmittedly, this was a strange book for me to read. I'm used to Allegra Goodman as an adult writer, heavy on character nuance and murkier with plot. For her YA dystopia, she had to turn this formula on it's head.
That's not entirely fair to her main character, Honor, who, unlike most contemporary heroines, doesn't have to break away from her parents to be rebellious, but rather to be normal. Through Honor, we see the allure of fitting into society in order to avoid ostracizarion, a paramount for dystopian fiction and present day grammar school. I also like how Goodman played with the idea of memory and control--one of the many similarities to "The Giver," but in Goodman's world, Honor had some past memories that flitted in and out in subtle ways, with hints and ultimately a revelation about how this society, or corporation, I should say, was eradicating them, and what that meant to their larger agenda,
In a way, this dystopia reads about what would happen if extremist environmentalists took over the world after catastrophe. I really loved Goodman's conceits about altering stories with dangerous weather, or "ceiling"/sealing the islands in protective domes. The "forecaster" became a code word for an antagonistic prophet; the corporation that now ruled the remains of Earth was headed up by the "Earth Mother." But this person, as illustrated by the imagery of a recycling school marm, may not have referred to an actual person, but rather the personified ideal of the corporation, a tangible deity for the people to follow. I Am using this word specifically, because at the beginning of the novel, certain pledges (another smart conceit by Goodman-- altering the words of modern day songs and pledges to fit the corporation,) were referred to as a religion.
I might be a little biased on this one, seeing as Goodman is a Jewish writer who touches on many Jewish themes in her adult work, but I saw illusions to another religion here, too. On the macro, metaphorical level, most Jews living in diaspora would understand the struggle between culturaism and assimilation. On a darker note, there are strands of Judaism that fervently adhere to enforcing community norms at the expense of indiviualistic thought. But even on a specific level I thought I found little niggles...could "Greenspoon" be a stand in for "Greenstein"? Were the candlesticks that Will and Pamela unpacked used for shabbos by distant relatives? And of course there is the issue of thee orderlies, an underling class of those who have had their humanity stripped away, being tattooed with identity numbers.
Ultimately there was little to no character development that didn't serve the plot, which was disappointing. And as the New York Times Sunday Book Review pointed out, although Goodman gave a lot of examples of how current day society was destroyed and/or converted post-Flood, there's little insight into the past devastation of our apocalypse, and why those of us who survived might willingly give up personal control, and crave an all-encompassing corporation to look after our safety. By the time we get to Honor's story, the corporation is mostly built on lies and fear.
I have to give props to Goodman's scientific mind, as always, for all of her meteorology and nature details. Also I'm intrigued by the style of writing--an omniscient voice where the narrator occasionally adds an anectodte about how things are "now" vs at Honor's time. Most dystopian novels seem to be told in the present, as the revolution significantly alters the society, but perhaps Goodman is hinting, ironically, perhaps, for a post-Flood apocalypse story, that not everything about the world Honor lived in will be washed away....more
Thank you to Penguin Group, which gave me this book at the end of a YA fantasy panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con. :)
I really enjoyed it overall, tThank you to Penguin Group, which gave me this book at the end of a YA fantasy panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con. :)
I really enjoyed it overall, this clever and haunted retelling of the Beauty and the Beast tale. Was a bit of a treat to go back to early medieval Ireland, a time and place I know little about, and be thrown into the world of Irish chieftains, Norman invaders and Latin translations.
It's relatively low on fantasy, but Marillier wrote the host with spooky undertones (and speaking of B&B, I especially liked the haunted/spyglass mirrors). I also thought in the beginning, when we, along with Caitrin, knew less about the machinations of the plot and backstory, that there was a somewhat Gothic and mysterious feel to her stay at Whistling Thor. I appreciated Caitrin's characterization the most then, her inner struggle between confidence and curiosity, and the fear and lingering depression remaining from her own familial tragedies.
The love story was a little on the schmaltzy side, especially in terms of narrative writing style, and sometimes I thought Anluan was a bit too moody, though maybe I'm not giving his unique situation enough credance. Near the back half of the book, there was some convenient plotting and last-minute realizations to tie things up appropriately, and the villains, though strongly realized when we were in their heads, had some pretty one-dimensional, fairy tale like motivations. Perhaps to be expected, and insofar as "whodunnit" plots go, I thought this had a good one.
I guess my final quibble would be the weird juxtaposition of Caitrin leaving at the dawn of a siege to put her own legally and mentally complicated family affairs in order, but make it back in time for the final battle, I guess a couple months later. Sheesh, that woman needs a vacation from having to solve everything from natural to supernatural conundrums. :p. But I really liked the characters, decently drawn for being secondary, and a peek into Caitrin's profession as medieval scribe/makeshift librarian, hee....more