Little did I know that I was getting myself into yet another dystopia by taking up this novel. The story begins in the perfect boarding school you could think of, in Hailsham, a picturesque school with spacious playgrounds and gardens; where the guardians are kind and considerate and the students are encouraged to be creative, to appreciate art and poetry and everything beautiful.
The scientific details in the book about the structure of the dystopia are sparse, I can even say that everything scientific is very subtly dealt with. I found it both strange and delightful that this novel zooms in on the relationships of the characters and their wavering emotions and not on the principles that form the foundations of the dystopia. I never thought that I would enjoy reading this book this much, maybe it’s because everything converges on a boarding school and it is about love and friendship, and how seemingly insignificant events shape people into what they become.
Kathy. H , the narrator is someone you will immediately warm up to- compassionate, tolerant, and observant. Ruth on the other hand, is not an endearing character but is more complex and full of layers, that one cannot completely categorize her. Tommy is also a character that you cannot help but be drawn towards- a person with “ a bad temper, but a big heart”. Despite the novel being about love and friendship, you don’t come across the characters talking at length about love and friendship, and everything is implied in their behaviour and mannerisms. The fate of the characters slowly unravels, it doesn’t hit me or leave me blindsided. Just like Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, I too had come to accept how everything will conclude.
Throughout the narrative, a feeling of resignation lingers. Rebellions and public demonstrations have no place in this dystopia. The students accept their futures for what they are. And there is something both brave and cowardly about this. Never Let Me Go would make you ponder over the fleeting moments that you shared with your friends and it is a book you should not let go of.
In Brave New World, you enter the Fordian world that functions as a well-oiled machine, with every part working perfectly. There are machines for everything, sundry surrogate materials, helicopters for commutation, and drugs that guarantee happiness and solace. Human beings are mass produced in embryonic bottles and are segregated into five distinct groups- the upper class Alphas, the Betas, the Gammas, the Deltas, and the moronic Epsilons. The five groups are conditioned continually on their own class disparities and their duties so as to avoid conflicts. They devoutly believe that, “everyone belongs to everyone else”. The Fordian world allows entry to an “uncivilized” man, John “Savage”, who fails to comprehend its civilized nature.
This book is well ahead of its times. Reading the first few pages of the book was akin to waking up from a dream I couldn’t fully remember nor understand. The utopia depicted in the novel is one that I think many people in the present age would gladly be part of- a place where you are ruled by comfort and recreational sex. Ironically the “civilized” Fordian society is founded on stability and the concept of conditioning, and not on love, loyalty, and compassion, everything that makes humans humane. In this utopia, religion is outdated, science is feared, familial relationships are a joke, and people or more accurately; genetically-engineered clones live conditioned lives robbed of their free will. Living in a world sans poetry, beauty, and truth, seems insane to me. People go about their lives unaware that every decision, move they take, is a result of conditioning. Strangely in a world where man is free from sorrow and all things unpleasant, he is not free to think on his own. This novel warns the readers of the path scientific development is to take, and its potential consequences.
“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them…But you don’t do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It’s too easy”
The novel’s connection to Shakespeare’s The Tempest cannot be ignored starting from the title to John’s sobriquet “Savage”, which alludes to Caliban. There is nothing brave about the brave new world where the people lead seemingly content lives never risking change and maintaining a pseudo stability. It is essentially a dystopia in the garb of a utopia. The book attempts to discuss the nature of a utopia by drawing on both modernity and tradition. The question the novel poses is that will we be able to tackle our future even if it stares in our faces?
She fingered the circular scar on her face as she looked at herself in the mirror. Her eyes glinted defiantly back at her. Smoking is injurious to health, but what is more injurious is when victims turn vengeful. The mark on her face was going to stay, but she had taken care of the person who had marred her face with a cigarette butt. When people played with fire, they were bound to get burned. And he had burnt like a potato chip.
I pull up the syringe
and inject the tune into my bloodstream
and I lose myself to the rise and fall of the rhythm
to forget, to dream,
to fantasize and to be free.
My body is no longer
a bundle of nerves,
but a nest of coiled verses.
Yet I pull up the syringe again,
and I lose myself to the sweep of the rhythm.
Ladies Coupe is a feminist novel that explores the roles and the rights of women in Indian society. The novel focuses on Akhila, a forty- five- year- old spinster, who is on a journey to ascertain what a woman can and cannot do. Weighed down by the responsibilities thrust on her as the daughter, sister, and breadwinner; she feels herself sinking into the morass of life unable to give vent to her womanly desires. In the ladies coupe of The Kanyakumari Express she encounters five women-Janaki, Margaret, Sheela, Prabha Devi, and Marikolanthu—women who belong to different age groups leading starkly different lives.
But unlike Akhila, these women are able to assert themselves and take control of their lives. Ladies Coupe is a remarkable novel that probes into the deceptively simple problems that women face. Here Anita Nair weaves together the threads of life of five diverse women forming a tapestry that is both melancholic and sanguine. She delves into the illusory nature of freedom that women generally experience meditating upon the feasibility of complete freedom.
This novel made me reflect on what it is to be a woman and the choices we have and whether we should restrict ourselves to the choices available or break barriers. Captivating and inspirational, this novel will definitely make you turn to yourself and think about the decisions that have been taken and the decision that are to be taken.
You pull words out of a hat
And throw it on people,
Basking in their sad attention.
A magician like no one else,
Twisting words to suit your needs
That is a talent, no tease.
While you do that
I pirouette to the music
Of your slander.
I stretch and twirl,
Turning things around,
Literally and figuratively.
The very definition of optimism,
No doubt, you would agree
With a beatific smile.