**spoiler alert** Although I appreciate this book's great value and its important message, I must admit that it took ages for me to read it, and that**spoiler alert** Although I appreciate this book's great value and its important message, I must admit that it took ages for me to read it, and that I enjoyed only parts of it.
That said, let's write a few words about the book itself. The novel follows three generations of a family caught up in a nuclear war and its aftermath. In the first part of the novel, "Sarah", Veronica, her children William and Catherine, and her stepdaughter Sarah are trapped in their house after a nuclear attack on Britain. A few days after the attack Veronica has to leave the house to get some necessary things, and she starts suffering from a radiation disease. Veronica slowly looses her will to live, so she leaves to find a place to die. Sarah, her 15 year old stepdaughter, takes over Veronica's responsibilities. From the beginning of the novel Sarah notices how Catherine's instinct to survive is very strong and decides to do everything to help her survive, even sacrifice William's and her own life. This is the part where the book started loosing my full attention. Even though I realize that this kind of thinking may come up in such severe conditions, I just don't see an elder sister preferring one sibling's life over another's. The first part of the book ends in Sarah finding a safe place for Catherine, and going back home to die with William.
The second part of the book, "Ophelia" follows Sarah's father, Bill Harnden, whose car is stopped by Erica Kowlonski, a leading authority in the cellular cloning of vegetable and animal protein. Erica asks him to drive her to a government bunker, where they are sealed in along with other important scientists, politicians and members of the military. Consequently, they survive the nuclear attack. Bill and Erica end up having a daughter - Ophelia - the offspring of a loveless marriage out of duty. When the bunker's authoritarian leader decides to “confiscate” the outside survivers' cattle, Bill, Ophelia (now a teenager) and Dwight, Ophelia's friend, choose to set out into the unknown to warn the outsiders. Ophelia's meeting with her aunt Catherine (with her rather unpleasant post-nuclear survivor's appearance) and her mutant offspring doesn't go smoothly, and Ophelia chooses to return to the irrational, unsustainable, “dinosaur” bunker way of life.
"Simon", the third part of the novel follows Ophelia's son, who is sent from the bunker to find help, since most of the supplies have been spent, and people in the bunker haven't been able to develop a more sustainable way of life – teaching genetics to their children, while not being able to grow edible food and make comfortable clothes. Simon and the rest of his species, whose ancestors have started the war, are compared with the new generation, the mutants, who are pacifist, ready to share with others and accept differences. The novel ends on a positive note, Simon finds his place within the mutant community, while still being aware that his murderous, selfish species will die out soon and leave the world a better place.
Quotes: “Simon hated her for that. Perhaps it was automatic. Her appearance alone made her different from him, and human beings had always feared and hated anyone who was different. Two thousand years of history saw it being repeated over and over, the perpetual struggle of one race, or tribe, or creed, against another... each one thinking they were right, superior, morally justified, or chosen by God. Simon saw himself as normal, Laura as abnormal.”
“Homo sapiens! The name itself was an irony. They had not been wise at all, but incredibly stupid. Lords of the Earth with their great gray brains, their thinking minds had placed them above all other forms of life. Yet it had not been thought that compelled them to act, but emotion. From the dawn of their evolution they had killed, and conquered, and subdued. They had committed atrocities on others of their kind, ravaged the land, polluted and destroyed, left millions to starve in Third World countries, and finished it all with a nuclear holocaust. The mutants were right. Intelligent creatures did not commit genocide, or murder the environment on which they were dependent.”...more
Of all the amazing aspects of this novel, it was the language that really blew my mind. Burgess came up with a whole slang, a mixture of ShakespereanOf all the amazing aspects of this novel, it was the language that really blew my mind. Burgess came up with a whole slang, a mixture of Shakesperean and Biblical English and twisted words from Slavic languages. Many of these words have several layers of meaning, and you can feel and enjoy Burgess's pleasure in playing with words and crafting sentences. Being Serbian and knowing some Russian helped a lot with being able to enjoy this masterpiece fully. Here is what Blake Morrison writes about Burgess's use of language in his introduction to "A Clockwork Orange": Above all, there is the language of "A Clockwork Orange", which is every bit as queer as the title might imply - Joyceanly queer in places, more demanding of the reader than most fiction, but exuberant in its inventiveness. Though other novelists, from Joyce to Russell Hoban, have also coined strange tongues, there is nothing in English quite like Burgess's novel, and no one who perseveresbeyond the opening paragraphs is likely to forget the experience, difficult and disorienting though it can be....more