This book was a gift for my 18th or 19th birthday, from a good friend of mine. I don’t actually know why I kept postponing reading it, I guess the title didn’t seem that tempting at that time. Anyway, a few days ago I caught a glimpse of the movie. I realised what it was about only when the old man said “Call me the Giver”. Then I remebered I had the book, so I closed the TV and decided to watch the movie later.
This book was originally published in 1993, so it’s basically older than me. And that means it is older than most popular young adult dystopian novels. The Hunger Games, for example, was published in 2008.
The Giver was written by Lois Lowry, author of more than forty books (and I can’t even write a short story, haha). This is the first book in a series of four, being followed by Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son. While reading the synopsis for these books I couldn’t really find a connection between them – besides the dystopian setting – but apparently there is one.
The Giver follows the story of a 12 year old boy named Jonas. He lives in a precisely controlled environment, excitedly waiting for the day of the Assignments, so he’ll find out what he was assigned to do for the rest of his life. For me, this books is a mixture of Equilibrium and Dark City, two of my favourite movies. The first one is about control, the second about memories and how they shape who we are.
In the Community where Jonas lives, there is an exact number of families, each being given two kids to raise. The children are provided by Birthmothers and partners are chosen by some kind of algorithm. The people have access to only two books, they can’t see colours, and they’re encouraged to always use precision of language. That basically means they have no knowledge of the past and no notion of fiction, their feelings are suppressed and things like love and beauty become hyperboles and are not allowed in conversation.
Unlike Equilibrium, in The Giver people can feel. The only problem is that the environment drains everything out of meaning, so that even if you can feel, you don’t know how or what. They can’t form new notions in the provided context.
The people in the Comminity don’t have a history, don’t have a culture or common traditions, or other things that have the power and duty to bind together a group of people. They don’t know why the world is the way it is, or how the world used to be. There is only one human that has this kind of knowlege, a man that stores inside him all the Memories of the past. And when Jonas becomes the Receiver, this man becomes, of course, The Giver. I am fascinated by the power of memories, I’ve always been. That’s why I loved Dark City so much, and that’s why this represented a big plus while reading this book.
When Jonas begins to aquire the memories he finally understands the illusion of life, of choice, of freedom. He can now see colours and feel love. And he knows that he must change something. Very good…
There were some things that felt unnatural in the plot.
Like The Giver. We find out about him in chapter seven, I think, when Jonas is assigned to be a Receiver. I needed an introduction of this character long before that. I needed to know the way the other people in the Community reacted to his sight, what was exactly the thing he was doing, his importance, and so on. This character appeared all of a sudden and I really feel that it needed previous development. You know, building a tension, sprinkle some mistery and all that.
Also, I don’t understand why the leaders of this control regime chose to store all the memories into a human. Isn’t it logical that when he’ll see that life can be better, he will want to create a rebellion? With all that technology, why didn’t they keep the memories in a special mysterious tech place? And then Jonas can find the place and because of his special set of skills (he’s a young-adult novel character, doh) he finds a way to steal the memories. Boom.
Also, the escape was, i don’t know, plain awkward. Like all of a sudden the Giver wants to save the world and tells Jonas to run and leave behind the memories, so the people will have acces to them, while he will stay in the Community to comfort them. It felt kind of rushed in the end, and not well explained and developed.
There are some things that I’m not going to mention, because I hope I’ll find answers to my questions in the next three books.
Anyway, I did enjoy reading The Giver. It has short chapters, an interesting plot, gives you something to think about or to debate with your friends. So maybe you’ll give it a try.