VOX by Christina Dalcher
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This book only popped up on my radar about a week ago when browsing Amazon and immediately when I read its description I knew I had to read it. It isn't until I've completed it and had a browse at some of the reviews out there that I've realised what a divisive book this is.
This is a dystopian fiction novel set in the United States in a world where a new highly moralistic and religious government have decided that the world was a better place before women's rights and therefore women have been removed from workplaces, denied the right to anything more than basic housekeeping and mathematical education in schools and have devices fitted to their wrists that electrically shock them if they speak more than 100 words per day. They are denied the right to read, make decisions for themselves medically, financially or educationally and they are punished if found to be adulterous or to be engaging in pre-marital sex.
Our main character Jean is a highly qualified neuroscientist who was working on a cure for people who have lost the ability to speak due to illness and who one year ago had her whole world change when the new rules regarding females came into force and suddenly she has found herself a forced housewife, unable to communicate, watching her only daughter denied the right to speak or be educated and wishing she'd done something when her friend warned her that things were going to change.
I loved this book. I ate it up in just under two days, I couldn't stop reading. It was such a thought-provoking read. As a mother of two daughters and two sons, I could absolutely empathise with the emotions Jean was experiencing watching her family live in this new world. The horror at watching as her daughters retreat further and further into themselves, unable to express simple things such as their needs, emotions, daily experiences or to create friendships. I also could see how living this way would lead to the conflicts she had with her eldest son whose constant indoctrination by the new regime leads to him believing he holds higher sway than her in the household, that she has a role she must fulfil and that is to be silent and obedient and cater to his needs.
There are so many 'what if' questions throughout this novel that it is definitely one that is going to linger with me for quite some time to come. There are lots of sciencey bits at the end and that was my less favourite part of the book and if I'm honest I did feel the last 3 chapters were a little rushed and didn't fully take the time to explore the outcomes of the actions Jean took. I would have liked a little more than a 2-page chapter set months later to wrap up the whole book. I had to go back and re-read the last 3 chapters and reflect again as things were glossed over in a sentence where if you blinked you'd miss it and the first time I did.
Now, this is clearly a marmite book, people either love it or they hate it. Many Christians are stating how concerned they are by this book as it is very much stated that this dystopian world has come about by extreme religious views and only that. There are concerns that this book promotes that Christians are all extremists and that they are intolerant of people of other sexualities, cultures, sexes. I can understand their concerns and yes I empathise with why they feel that way however as a reader I am intelligent enough to know that all Christians are not like those portrayed in this book, reading a fiction novel like this is not going to make me think that suddenly every Christian I meet is planning to gag women around the world. I think you need to suspend reality whilst reading and enter into the fictional world the author is creating and this one was captivating for me.
If you loved The Handmaid's Tale I have a feeling this one might just tickle your fancy. It is one of the standout books I've read this year and I have a feeling we might be hearing an awful lot more about this one in the months ahead.