Intelligence. Integrity. Courage. Wisdom.
These are the qualities a Receiver of Memory must have. And one more, but not described. The Capacity to See Beyond.
Jonas lives safely within the community, a place where there is no war, no hunger and no pain. But when he is selected as the Receiver of Memory, he starts to discover dark secrets that lie beneath the surface of his perfect world. Secrets that will lead him to undertake an incredible journey…
This book was first published in the US in 1993 and is now taught in many schools across the globe. Unfortunately, the old book covers have always put me off reading this story (although you should never judge a book by its cover) but to my delight Harper Collins recently decided to republish this fantastic novel with a more reader-friendly, adult style design and kindly sent me a copy to review.
The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is much like marmite. Some people love it. Some people hate it. I have fallen into the first category but agree with many others that the ending of this book really lets it down. The Giver is set in a Utopian society where everyone conforms to strict rules and regulations in order to keep them ‘safe’. Life in this community seems almost robotic with stilted conversations and lack of feeling between inhabitants. Adults are required to take pills to rid them of any such feeling and to suppress sexuality. Families are put together by the government and children (no more than two per family) are presented at the yearly Ceremony of One.
The story is centred around the character Jonas and starts around the dinner table as the family discuss their dreams. It becomes clear that this community is different to any other and if inhabitants don’t fit they will be ‘released’.
‘For a contributing citizen to be released from the community was a final decision, a terrible punishment, an overwhelming statement of failure.’
An endless list of rules ensure that all members of the community fit the mould of ‘sameness’. Announcements are made through speakers to the community to remind them of these rules – ‘Attention. This is a reminder to all females under nine that hair ribbons are to be neatly tied at all times.’
At the dinner table the reader learns of Jonas’s fear of the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve; the day when all twelve-year-old children will receive the job they are to carry out for the rest of their adult working life. This ceremony was very reminiscent of Harry Potter’s sorting hat with children hoping and praying to receive their first choice. It is at this ceremony that Jonas receives the job of Receiver of Memory and it is here that the story takes a different turn.
‘Then he heard the gasp – the sudden intake of breath, drawn sharply in astonishment, by each of the seated citizens. He saw their faces; the eyes widened in awe. And still he did not understand.’
Throughout the next few chapters both Jonas and the reader find out about life outside the community. What was life like before the sameness? Slowly, Jonas discovers that life has not always been this way. He learns about snow, sun, colours and love and realises that there is a whole world out there that has been hidden from the people of his community. A whole world they have never experienced and will never experience unless he does something about it.
This story deals brilliantly with the concept of conformity and explores the ideas that too many rules and regulations can trap us, robbing us of life’s riches. It is clear from Jonas’s story that individuality and choice are such an important right that we should continue to fight for across the globe.
This story was delightfully creepy and a great dystopic read.
Rating: 4/5 AR level 5.7 MY Quiz No: 220915