Vox by Christina Dalcher
Publishing Date: 21st August 2018
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 384
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Thriller
Silence can be deafening.
Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins.
Now the new government is in power, everything has changed. But only if you’re a woman.
Almost overnight, bank accounts are frozen, passports are taken away and seventy million women lose their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write.
For herself, her daughter, and for every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is only the beginning…
[100 WORD LIMIT REACHED]
Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, don’t miss the thrilling debut that everyone is talking about!
“New research indicates there’s a biological reason why women talk so much more than men: 20,000 words a day spoken by the average woman, according to one study, versus about 7,000 words a day for the average man.” – that was my Google search. Now reduce it to 100 a day, which is what happens in “Vox” – women are allowed only 100 words per day. It’s being controlled by wrist – band counters, cosily called “bracelets” by the male part of the population, and exceeding this daily quota results in a very painful electrical shocks. No matter if you’re an adult woman or a young girl.
Jean McLellan, the main character in this exceptionally good debut novel by Christina Dalcher, is a cognitive linguistic, mother of four children (three boys and one girl), wife. She used to protest against present government, she voted for another President candidate. Now she’s silenced, just like all the other females in the United States. She can’t work anymore, she’s supposed to stay at home, do her shopping, cook and, ultimately, be seen and not heard. Her husband Patrick works for the present government (the irony!), as a science advisor to the president (what science, you could ask, and it would be a very understandable questions, as everything is being controlled by the state). But then THE accident happens and Jean is approached by the President’s people – her professional skills are required. Will she help? Will she be made to help?
Jean is a very intelligent woman and after negotiating a deal she starts working but it quickly turns out that – of course – nothing is as straightforward. Is she going to win this race against time?
Occasionally I do like to read a book that doesn’t belong to my favourite genres and after seeing all the hype about “Vox” I thought that maybe I should try it and see what’s it all about. It often happens that the novels that are being so strong advertised really don’t live up to expectations but well, “Vox” is for sure not a book to be missed, guys. It’s thought – provoking and controversial and clever and not too dystopian and I really liked this book. I can understand that the book is probably going to unleash a storm of discussions, especially when it comes to religion, and I have my own opinion about it as well but I don’t want to entwine such threads into my review. I don’t want to know if it is done on purpose, the way Christianity was presented in this novel, in those times when religion is the biggest weapon, when extremity and fundamentalist are on the pages of every magazine – I went into this book with open mind and finished it without judging, and I hope you’re going to do the same, to fully enjoy it. I was only not sure when the action actually takes places. I know it was America but did I miss the timeline? I guess it was in the future, however how close or far away, this I don’t know, and it bothered me a little, as for me it was an important piece of knowledge for this book. So let’s agree on foreseeable future.
This story substitutes this saying: “Children should be seen but not heard” for “Women should be seen but not heard”. There came a moment that I was actually scared to read further – I had a very bad feeling for what can happen and I guess I just didn’t want to see my assumptions come true. But I also didn’t want to put this book down, especially when the second half started and the atmosphere of terror and not knowing what’s to come was incredibly overwhelming. And there could anything happen, guys. Anything. The characters, in the name of a “proper” religion, weren’t afraid to stop at nothing. I actually think that such kind of a country would suit some of the present dictators, and probably this is also what made the book, even though dystopian, so realistic and so frightening. The number of lunatics in this book was also horrifying, to be honest, claiming they really believe in what is said. Amazing. I can’t believe something like this could happen in reality, especially so quickly and with so many women that march in response to it but well, there is always this little quiet voice in your head asking “What if” when you read this book. But OK, that’s not the point of this novel, right – but you can see that it’s a book that is going to make you think, ask questions and wonder.
The effect of all those actions were brutally honestly showed through children. While the twins were not the most significant characters, the author mostly focused on the oldest son and then the youngest daughter Sonia. It made me frustrated to see how quickly they adapted to the new situations and regulations. The oldest son changed in a way that the “pure” expected, but also Sonia adapted, winning a competition at school – the competition was, of course, which girls speak the less words. She has managed three. It just blew my mind how you could live like that, watch your daughter not being able to vocalize, who wasn’t allowed to read nor communicate in any other way – my own six – year – old talks without taking a breath, reads books and seeing her like Sonia would be a real torture. How much did she miss!
The last part of the book was, in comparison to the whole story, very fast – paced and nothing was impossible there. It happened too quickly for my liking but I’m guessing that without this fast tempo there wouldn’t be the intentional impact on the reader – I personally was glued to the last pages. I’m not sure about the ending, though, to be honest, it was too meh for me – I don’t want to say more in case I’m going to spoil something but I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on the end.
This is not the story about “how” (it happened), it’s a story about consequences and results but I think we really don’t have to know how it happened, it’s not the important part. It is written in a very captivating way, I really didn’t want to put it down. There are some issues I had problem with, like the above mentions ending, or for some things just happening, very conventionally, the science happening just like that, the right people at the right places but overall it didn’t spoil the reading for me.
Altogether, “Vox” was a very powerful, important book about the importance of speech and political freedom, especially for women. It was heavily emphasized in this novel but it wasn’t overwhelming, so really kudos to the author for balancing it in such a great way. It showed how quickly people can get used to new situations, how quickly they take for normal this what is far away from normal. How patronizing they become and how quickly they can be brain – washed. Thanks to the author’s background in science there are some interesting and intriguing questions being asked: what would be the world without language, without words? What would happen with women after a few generations of not speaking? Not reading? What should they do with their lives? It was chilling and the bleak, dark atmosphere was so very well captured that it was actually like watching a film, hearing the ominous music and knowing that something is going to happen. It dealt with gender, sexuality, domestic violence, racism and even though in extreme, dystopian way, it somehow rang a bell. A great statement about speaking up, standing strong for yourself and your beliefs. Highly recommended!