Book review by Cari Mayhew. Rating 7/10.
A country where women can only speak 100 words a day – a novel concept for a dystopian thriller! The protagonist’s bitterness was palpable, and there were huge stakes at play, making for an intense read.
This book is set in the USA in the near future. A religious party is in power which sees women as only caregivers. Every woman and girl wears a counter on their wrist, counting the number of words spoken from midnight to midnight each day, delivering a powerful electric shock if they are one syllable over their 100-word limit. Ironically, the central character, Jean, is a linguist.
The action of the main storyline starts when the president’s brother, develops Wernicke’s aphasia as a result of brain damage following a skiing accident. This condition renders the victim unable to convey meaning in their speech, allowing them to only speak gibberish. With her knowledge of neuro-linguistics, Jean is uniquely placed to be persuaded to return to the lab to develop a remedy. Only, when she does, she discovers there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes – and she’s one of a small few with the power to save the day!
As you’d imagine, the female central character is extremely bitter, bitter with society and bitter with herself. She frequently looks back at how things became this way and wishes she had done more. The author does an excellent job of showing how insidiously the propaganda behind the movement swallowed up the nation. Jean sees it in her sons and daughter.
I’d very much like to believe that nothing like this would ever happen in western society, but sadly there are still some cultures in the world where women are faced with oppression.
I have mixed feelings about this book. In some ways, there was too much going on, such as Jean’s mother’s aphasia, and Jean’s extra-marital affair with her Italian crush. On the other hand, Dalcher could have done more to convey how oppressive the rule was for society at large, rather than concentrating on one woman’s experience – particularly since it was a woman for whom the rule was lifted for.