Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien

Caragh O'Brien's future world is arid and harsh, where some live inside a walled community and some outside. Gaia is 16, a trainee midwife who we see deliver her first baby by herself and then take that baby away from the mother and deliver it to the Enclave, to advance it to a life of privilege. On her way home she discovers that her parents, who have always served the Enclave, have been arrested, accused of treason. I was completely hooked by this point.

Deciding she has to save her parents, she finds a way inside the Enclave only to discover those inside don't live the idealized life those outside had always believed. With time she realizes her mother holds the key - she has birth marked babies so she would know who had been born in her sector - exactly the information the Enclave wants to know. But when she finds out what the Enclave has in mind, she realizes she has to warn the people outside.

This reminds me of the brutal and unjust world of The Handmaid's Tale, a world where Gaia has to make some terrifying choices and finds she has an important role to play. The characters are unpredictable and complex - and nothing is black and white. We hear arguments from both sides of the wall, learning about each society's ills as Gaia does yet given believable reasons for everything. It makes the book all the more powerful and horribly realistic. How would any of us react if we saw all our certainties and beliefs stripped away and were left facing the gnawing truth of a terrible system? Would we allow society turn women into breeders to ensure the continuity of the human race? Dramatic, compulsive, and incredibly well written this is a dystopia that will stay with you, leaving you waiting impatiently for the sequel.


Tere Kirkland said...

Thanks for the recommendation. This sounds awesome!

Bookgeek said...

I really enjoyed it.And I so appreciated how different it is. It's my hand sell of the week.Hope you enjoy it as much as I did