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!
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