<Book review>

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)

Is it possible to create a perfect society - one where everyone is well-fed and healthy and carefree? How would you do it? Are people only entitled to live in the society if they actively contribute? What do you do with those who are not capable of contributing? Do you have to sacrifice individual freedom for the greater good?

Well, this story is set in a perfect world, but it is only perfect for the inhabitants because they are subdued to the point where they do not question the decisions which are taken for them by their elders. Children live in family units but not with their natural parents. At the age of twelve they are assigned to learn their adult duties. The only object in life is to conform. But in return for this the people never experience hunger or pain. You may think they do not experience real life at all since there is no emotion.

But there are some ugly truths propping up this particular community. Who takes the really difficult decisions which are outside the limited experience of the ordinary inhabitants? Jonas, aged twelve, and teetering on the brink of trainee adulthood is selected to become the new Receiver of Memory.

How on earth do you bear the burden of memory of the whole of human experience? The agonies of war and disease and loss, the heights of human achievement, freedom, music, colour, and the overwhelming power of love. Jonas must keep these memories on behalf of his community, but he may not share them with anyone because no-one wants to experience the whole range of human emotion. It is too painful. See how Jonas copes.

This is an excellent book and will give you plenty to think about. I was rather confused with the ending and would have been happier with a different one, but it is, of course, the writer's privilege to choose. But why does he suddenly come across the sled and the hill at the very end? It doesn't really seem to matter too much if the storyline has weaknesses though because the strength of the book is in the ideas and the community which the writer has created.

Read it and see what you think.

What can I read next?

If you think you might be interested in another book set in a distant future, have a look at this one by Nina Bawden:

Or this rather horrible one by Rachel Anderson - it all depends what you think the future holds for us!:

Here's one by Peter Dickinson set in a world where things have gone wrong:

Or you might enjoy this one by William Nicholson:

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