Wednesday, 29 August 2007

The Giver - Lois Lowry

I'm so grateful to the "Something about me" challenge because it gave me the chance to discover some of the best books I've read this year and maybe ever. "The Giver" is one of these.
I don't know about "Brave new world" or the film "Pleasentville" and I've never read "1984" by George Orwell, only excerpts in school. But as far as children's literature is concerned this is an extraordinary book. It kept me glued to it for hours. I had to know how this world worked, what were its secrets, what would happen to its protagonist. It was a real page-turner. It wasn't a simple read though, like others have said. It was quick, but it made me think about it for days. It was scary in a deep, subtle way. It raised strong, elementary emotions, and it made me shiver trying to imagine how a world like that would be possible.
The story is set in an indefinite far future, where society is organised in small communities, all designed with the same scheme: everything and everyone have to be up to the standards of the community. Everything is regulated by fixed and almost unchangeable laws. Individuality is not an option and neither is free will. This is the price that humanity have chosen to pay to avoid hunger and violence and war.
Families, called family units, are not decided by love or anything else but a Community Council which finds the right match for every person, thus creating the perfect harmony in the unit. Children are also regulated by a scheme: one boy and one girl, born by a group of birth-mothers, are allocated to one family who requests them.
At first this system seems to be the most organised way of living. There's no struggle for survival because everything is provided, everyone is kind and equal, though some "assignments"( not jobs) are less honourable than others. Everything is tidy, and quiet and peaceful. But there's something eerie is this peacefulness.
You can feel that something is not quite right. Hints are given here and there: people being mysteriously "released" (and you can guess pretty quickly what that means), an impersonal Voice that speaks through a microphone and gives orders and warnings. Even a rule that might sound positive and open-minded, the sharing of dreams in the morning and of feelings in the evening, has something mechanical and disturbing about it.
And then you start asking questions: where are the books, the writers, the artists? Will there be an assignment specifically for them? Because certainly they can't live without them.
"Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all.” said Philip Pullman and so I kept reminding myself.
But it's not till Jonas, the boy who's the main character, has his first wet dream, or the Stirrings, as his parents would call it, that you realise how controlling and de-humanising this society is.
Shortly after Jonas' life changes completely when he is selected as the new Receiver of Memory. And here I stop. I've already said too much. I'll leave it to you to find out what that means. If you've never heard of it, like me before, then you shouldn't be spoiled with more informations. If you've read it, I'll like to discuss it with you in the comments!
Thanks to Sarah Miller for choosing it. Here she says why. I think I would relate to her very well. Like her I was amazed by it and somehow shocked, and I also believe in happy endings, always:)

other blog reviews:
Jill at The well-read child
Kristi at Passion for the page
Stephanie's confessions of a book-a-holic


Ana S. said...

It's funny, until very recently I had never heard of Lois Lowry, but in the past few weeks quite a few bloggers posted about her, and she sounds like an author I really should read.

Wonderful review. I'll definitely be reading this book. And I love that Philip Pullman quote.

Laura said...

Valentina, what a great review! I am planning to read this book for the Book Awards Challenge, and your review has made me even more interested in The Giver!

BookGal said...

This is also a great book to teach .. fifth and sixth graders can really get into it and discuss it. I'm glad you liked it so much. Lowry is a great read.

Julie Cleghorn said...

I agree with bookgal, but my fifth graders hate the part about the "stirrings" and the "nakedness". After that it really makes them think! Like I said in the other comment, I really enjoy Gathering Blue and The Messenger as well which go with this story a bit. But her newer book Gossamer I also enjoy.

valentina said...

My plan is to find the other two and read them as soon as possible,but it seems like the messenger has never been published here!!

Stephanie said...

Great Review!! I have this on my list to read, and one of these days, I'm going to get to it!

Andi said...

Great review! I love teaching this book to college students in my children's literature classes. They have a great time mulling over all of the issues you raised here.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

It really is a classic. I didn't read it til I took a YA literature course at library school, but here it's often assigned to middle school kids. We keep it in the YA section in my library, though. I couldn't remember why until you mentioned the Stirrings. :)

It really is an excellent example of dystopian fiction and one that stays with you for a long time.

John Mutford said...

I read this book only last year and really enjoyed it (though unlike you, I was a little let down by the ending). If you're interested in my thoughts they're here.

Dewey said...

This is one of those books beloved by adults and kids alike. And kids who read it for school will reread it again and again on their own.