Thursday, 1 May 2008

The Declaration - Gemma Malley

In the year 2140 humanity has found the secret to immortality. Thanks to a mix of drugs and cell renewals, Death for illness or old age is only a memory. But if nobody dies anymore, new births are a danger, a luxury that earth can’t afford. That’s why each person who decides to take Longevity, the cure for eternal life, has to sign a Declaration and swear never to bear a child.
Of course, though, not everybody agrees, and the children of those who disobey are labelled as Surplus. In some countries Surplus are simply put to death as soon as they’re found out. In civilised Britain, Surplus children are sent to Grange Hall, where they are taught to hate their parents for being selfish and learn how to be Valuable Assets for their society.

Anna is a Surplus. She shouldn’t exist, but she does. She was brought to Grange Hall when she was two and a half, and since then she’s known that there was no place for her in the world. She has been told that in order to repay Mother Nature for her parent’s sins, she has to become Useful, and learn how to be submissive and dutiful, so that in the future she could be a good housekeeper the Legals.Now she’s almost fifteen and a Pending, meaning that soon she will be sent away to become a house servant. She’s worked hard to be good and learn her place in the world.

But one day Peter arrives and changes everything. He insists on calling her Anna Covey and on telling her that her parents love her. Anna at first is angry at him for challenging everything that she believes in, for not showing respect for the Legals and not Knowing His Place. But secretly she’s fascinated by his talks of the Outside and of the underground movement. And then one day Peter is taken away and her world is turned upside down.

The first thing I need to say before discussing it, is that this was an incredibly gripping novel. I found myself reading while walking on the street, and it doesn’t happen often! Last time I tried, it was with the Thirteenth Tale but after few steps I stopped. I didn’t stop with this, probably because it’s an easier read, or maybe just because the prints is bigger and easier to follow!
I also cried, suddenly, at the end, during an extremely moving scene, for which I challenge anybody here to remain unmoved.

Like The Giver, The Declaration makes you think. A lot. Gemma Malley has taken our modern obsession with youth and the science’s constant attempts to lengthen our lives, and has stretched it to the extreme. What would actually happen if we could really live forever?
The book explores the possible answers on many levels. It focuses on the Surplus, those who are born illegally and don’t have any rights to exist, except for serving the Legals and for doing the jobs nobody else would want to do. They are slaves, cheap labour in the best circumstances, that the system needs to provide comfortable lives for the rest of the population.
I found myself thinking about their conditions a lot and finding many similarities with the people we call clandestine. The illegal immigrants, who would do any kind of job to be accepted into our societies, who don’t have a right to exist until they have a piece of paper that grants them that right.
They are a necessity, they serve the economy, but we regard them as a nuisance, an issue to be solved, a threat.
Surplus reminded me also of the Jews during the Holocaust. Especially since the main character is called Anna, and writes a journal which she hides behind the bath. She was found hidden in an attic just like Anne Frank, and like her, she was deported into a detention centre.
Grange Hall reminds me more of a Magdalene laundry more than Auschwitz. But the idea is the same.
It’s a story that deals with a lot pain and loss, with tough choices and important moral issues. It is not a happy book. It’s depressing to think how these kids wouldn’t have any hope in life, any dreams, to look forward to. It made me really angry and really sad, and also really scared towards the end. It triggered many emotions and many questions. And I loved it for that.

Ma sure to visit the book's website for a preview, interview with author and more.
I’m pleased to know that Gemma Malley is already working on the sequel. The bloomsbury website say the title would be "Longevity+".
But some other sources say it will be called "The Resistance".
I much prefer the second one. Sounds really promising. I can’t wait!

other blog reviews:
Reader Rabbit
Bookwyrm Chrysalis


Nymeth said...

I hadn't heard of this one before and it sounds absolutely fantastic. Thanks for telling us know about it!

Trish said...

I haven't heard of this one either, but I love a story that can make you think and moves you and grips you! I'll put this on my wishlist--thanks for the review!

heatherlo said...

This book looks awesome, I'm putting it on my wishlist right away :)

mariel said...

This sounds great! Its been a while since I read a dystopian novel, so this is right up my alley. Thanks!

cj said...

It does sound like an amazing book and I'll be adding it to my list, too.


valentina said...

Nymeth, it is! We just received the paperback, so no excuses! ( only the cover is not as fabulous as this one).
have you read the Handmaid's tale by Margaret Atwood? It's been compared to that so now I want to read it!

Trish, I'm happy it's on you list, everyone should read it!

heatherlo, that's great! I can't wait to know what you think of it.

Mariel, I love dystopian novel, even though I didn't know I did till I read the Giver and this one. I'm very open to recommendations:)

cj, great! I'm happy to spread the love for this book, it's so good:)

mariel said...

Ooh in that case my first recommendation would be Brave New World by Aldous Huxley! Plus there's 1984, Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson and for a really dark read, there's The Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Then there's also Handmaid's Tale, and the Children of Men (PD James) though I have only seen the movies, not read the books..yet! I've also heard good things about Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake.


valentina said...

I've read Lord of the flies and loved it, even though I'm not so cynical about children. I've read excerpts in school of 1984 but I should read the whole thing one day. Never read the others, but I will think about it. Thanks for your recommendations!

I heard Noughts and Crosses is good too by Malorie Blackman.

Anonymous said...


i've read this book and just want to agree that it is fantastic, and would like to tank you for giving me the possible titles of the sequel, i've been busting to read it!

the story is sad, and there seems there is no happy end for Anna at many points, yet somehow Gemma Malley manages to portray a glimmer of hope, and I believe the ending is completely fitting, and leaves just the right hint of the sequel!

thats all i have to say, i'm only 14, but I love it, and think its brilliant, and perfectly adresses modern issues, yet still in a metafictive way.


web said...

Hi - I just reviewed this one and am adding my blog links. You can find my review at:

Lenore said...

I reviewed this too - and I bought it in the UK so I have the beautiful cover with the butterfly as well :)

Anonymous said...

hi gemma i have read lots & lots of books but 'the declaration' was definetely the best make more books like that and i will definetely read them

gian maria said...

Hi Valentina, Great Book and Great blog!
Here is my review ;-) italian :-)