Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Unit by Ninn Holmqvist

I have just finished a great book from the library --- it had been on my TBR list and I had forgotten all about it until I came across it on the shelf.....

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

Taken from the front flap:  "THE UNIT is a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of a system geared toward eliminating those who do not contribute by conventional means, in which the 'dispensable' ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the 'necessary' ones.  It also looks deeply into the nature of the female psyche, at its resilience and creativity under dire conditions."

This book reminded me strongly of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, in that it's set in a society that may or may not be too far into the future, where women can be completely dispensable if they don't bear children.   In The Unit, both men and women over a certain age can be considered dispensable, donating parts of their bodies to "necessary" people, or even participating in experiments.   Holmqvist takes an interesting tactic in making the place where all the "dispensable" people go sound like a great place (you have great food, you don't need money) ... that is, until they start asking for things like a kidney.  Or part of your inner ear.  Suddenly, what becomes not such a big thing (after all, we have two kidneys....) becomes something rather horrifying.    The detachment of the society (in this story) towards all of this makes it even more so.

I thought the author did a wonderful job with the development of the main character, Dorrit, and even with the other more peripheral characters in the story.  I found myself caring so much about Dorrit and what was going to happen to her that I started reading this book whenever I could (brushing my teeth, even -- anything to get in a page or two!).    It's not necessarily a happy story, but it really made me think -- not only about how certain people are valued in this world, but also about love, and the value of self.  Really a thought-provoking story.


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