The Choice by Claire Wade
Publishing Date: 26th December 2019
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 368
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
‘Eat the best, leave the rest! Remember Mother knows best.’
Olivia Pritchard lives in constant fear since Mother Mason came into power. Everything from healthy eating to exercise is controlled by the government, all in the name of health and happiness. Olivia hates being dictated to, but to protect her family she must follow the rules or face a stay in the Shame Box – a perspex box, placed in a public place for everyone to judge.
After Olivia witnesses an innocent woman being violently arrested, she is no longer able to ignore the injustice. The underground rebellion ‘Cut The Apron Strings’ is gaining momentum and for the first time in years Olivia has a choice: keep her head down or join the fray…
“The Choice” introduces us to near – future England, led by Mother Mason elected as Prime Minister. Mother Mason, a woman obsessed by healthy living, determined to create a healthy and fit population, has banned all the non – healthy food. You won’t find sugar, chocolate, fat milk, cream, cakes or other fatty products, and baking is now perceived as crime. To make sure everybody obeys the new regulations, everything, the whole nation, are being constantly watched and monitored, and moreover, because of fear everybody is also watching and monitoring – the others. Food is being rationed, fitness club membership is an obligation and weight is recorded on every single occasion.
Olivia Pritchard is struggling with this new reality. She used to be a baker, baked wonderful cakes, so her career no longer exists and her own parents abnegated any knowledge of her and her family. She lives in fear of doing something wrong, something that would hazard her family as Mother Mason seems to know everything. But what choice do you have but to comply? Or maybe there is still a chance to get the old lives back?
“The Choice” is not my usual read but every now and again I more than gladly reach for something that is more out of my comfort zones, and when this book was pitched to me I immediately felt that I want to read it. It turned out to be a dystopian piece of a great work, a story that you immediately feel is going to blow you away, and it certainly did it to me. I found myself almost immediately invested in the characters’ lives, I lived and breathed with them, more than once I found myself wanting to bring Mother Mason down by myself – and it is always a sign of a great read.
I don’t think that the future described in the book is our future, however it nevertheless hits close to home, as the present governments try hard to control us in every possible ways. They’re maybe not as tyrannical and big – brotherly as the one described in the book (yet!) but I think that we slowly start to feel as if we’re monitored much too much. In “The Choice”, Mother Mason has been voted to run the government and she takes this to another level – the health – obsessed woman decides about everything by herself and UK turns to sugar – free, fat – free, diseases – free but also luck – and happiness free country. Everything is rationed, you can’t go shopping without being weighted and measured and without your ID card that stores every single info about you.
Olivia, as a main character, is very well crafted. She’ realistic in all the things she does and says, and she’s not only likeable but also more than often annoying. She used to be creative and loved her life previously, enjoyed her career as a baker, and now she simply can’t come to terms with the new regime, retreating into herself, becoming almost depressed, which is absolutely not a wonder! She’s flawed but also strong and determined, even though this determination of hers made me want to shake her once or twice and tell her to step back, please, as she was making to many silly mistakes.
The other characters are well written as well. There is a relatively huge group of them but you quickly know who is who and to whom they belong. They have their own personalities, more or less well developed, are strong individuals with their own opinions and distinctive voices and are full of secrets. The feeling of tension and of not being able to trust each other was there on the pages, visible and palpable, as neighbours and friends were becoming a threat, and it was brilliantly captured by the author.
I would love a little bit more background on Mother Mason. What has driven her? What has motivated her? Sure, she appears vindictive and I absolutely wanted her down – actually, I was as scared as the characters themselves, really. She was not there but she was also there, an invisible – but also visible – threat. It was a brilliant idea and great use of a character but I’d really love to know what has made her tick this way.
The writing style is addictive, chatty and it quickly draws you in, and the book is written in such a way that after putting it down you really need to look around and check if your chocolate is where it should be. The language used is direct and even though it is vivid and reach, it doesn’t use descriptions as a tool to fill the pages, which was great, as it only added even more sense of fear and distrust. The narration is very descriptive, vividly describing the fictional world that is truly brilliantly created – everything is considered and airtight, starting with the small town of Bunham, its residents, through the markets, Shame – Boxes, the re – education centres and prisons. Yes, there were moments that simply seemed too unrealistic, even for a dystopian novel, things that happened too casually and conveniently that bothered me a bit, but altogether I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would devour it in one sitting if it wasn’t for life getting in the way.
Altogether, “The Choice” was an excellent debut novel, not too overdone, ambitious and unique, much better than some of the debut novels in the same genre so highly advertised last year – well, I personally think this book doesn’t need to be pushy advertised because it’s great and it will simply fly from the shelves.
It was a compulsive, addictive and disturbing read, thought – provoking and realistic, exploring morality, freedom of choice, showing that we always have the Choice, no matter what – we only need to find the courage. It is insightful and controversial and the author explores so many possible scenarios, giving us a great view of “what if”. It shows the strength and importance of family and friends and asks how much the society is able to withstand and where are the limits of oppression, how far is too far. And it is probably more realistic than we may initially think! Hugely recommended!
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