Thursday 27 July 2017

Book Review: Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Let me just start by saying that this book won't be for everyone. However if you, like me, have been intrigued yet horrified with 'The Handmaid's Tale' then this runs along the same lines. It has also been likened to 'The Giver'.

Set in a patriarchal dystopian world, most of the earth has been ravaged by fire and a small group of 10 men and their wives managed to create a settlement on an island. These men called themselves the Ancestors and set up a cult-like society complete with their loose version of a bible with 'shalt-nots'. The men tend the land. Women are wives and housekeepers, who may only have two children to ensure the population doesn't grow too quickly. Girls are married off as soon as they hit puberty but before that are there to 'comfort' their fathers when they can't go to their wives (if you get what I mean. Gross. It's never described though - only alluded to). In the heat of the summer all the children are sent off free to roam the island and fend for themselves to keep them from rebelling for the rest of the year.

Obviously inter-breeding becomes an issue with lots of 'defectives' which troubles the men of the island. The story is told by four girls on the brink of puberty, one is older than the rest because she starves herself to keep puberty away. The girls have grown up in this messed-up society but some have begun to question the why's and what-ifs. But can children change anything?

As I said - not for everyone. I chose this book to review because the blurb said that it was about a cult on an island. Would I pick this off the shelf for myself? No. Should I? Maybe. With all the hype surrounding The Handmaids Tale where women are oppressed and men teach false religion, it casts an eerie shadow on a future that may not actually be too far off these fictitious stories.

The writing is beautiful, the characters are well-drawn and the island comes to life in your mind. Although the topics that are alluded to are worst-of-the-worst, they are tiptoed around and treated with sensitivity. But then there is some graphic violence that undoes this.

Clearly I am torn with this book, it is very haunting but well written and it has made me think, which not many novels do -I tend to consume then forget.

So if my patchy review has made you curious then Gather the Daughters is available now. This probably won't be the last you hear of it.

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy of this book.