Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Girl With all the Gifts (Spoiler free) review

This was another book that consumed me. It has that same kind of disconnection that aberrant normality with which Orwell's classic 1984 opens. For Orwell's Winston Smith, the clocks striking 13 at the end of the opening line.  For Carey's Melanie it is the idea of a child in a prison, a child who must be strapped into a restraining chair before she can be taken to class, a child for whom all this is nothing more than she expects.  She endures the unendurable with the innocent acceptance of one who knows nothing else.  But all things change and the onion layers of the world that M.R.Carey has created are gradually peeled back with surgical precision.

The story is told predominantly in the present tense and this kind of feature usually annoys me - it can feel amateurish.  In Carey's hands it is an effective device to make the story more edgy.  We see the tale unfold from five different points of view.  For me, the fact that all of them speaking to the reader in the present tense giving no reassurance that this is reflection on a tale that has been safely consigned to their past.

All five voices are beautifully rendered, faithful to the drives and motivations of the characters yet allowing each one to grow and adapt to teh changing currents of the story.  Most notably including the eponymous heroine - our would-be Pandora.  She is a child of imprisonment, an utter innocent, and yet gifted with an intelligence beyond that of all the adults around her. It is a difficult persona to present convincingly and it is to Carey's credit that he manages it so effectively.

The other characters are portrayed with equal clarity, their obsessions and their preoccupations, and after Melanie, I think my favourite is the Sergeant for these are the two whose journey most enthralled me.

The Girl with all the Gifts set off associations in my mind with other books, a touch of Roald Dahl's Matilda, a brief hint of Emma Donoghue's "Room" all stirred in with a healthy dose of every post apocalyptic nightmare story there's ever been.

The writing is crisp and economical, no words wasted, nothing you can skip or skim or even put down.

I have read two great books in under a week and must be wary of starting another of such quality, for fear that I will lose all touch or interest in the real world.

I'm still thinking about the book a day after finishing it, haunted by thoughts and the references in the plot that unleash little echoes or after-shocks.  It is a clever intricate story that works well.  Its threads get into your mind and bind you to it!


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