Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review by Shellie: The Unit ~ by Ninni Holmqvist

A translated novel set in a futuristic and twisted democracy, it borders on horror with a realistic feel making it all the more terrifying.

Set Up:  A story taking place in Sweden at some undisclosed time in the future, where there has developed a truly warped social system.

The main character is a single women turning fifty. She has no family connections and is struggling financially. Dorit is required to enter a governmentally mandated enclave called “the unit”.  A place where all persons – men of sixty years and women of fifty - move to if they are deemed “dispensable”. That is if they do not have anything which is considered of economic value to give. In turn they live a life of luxury yet must submit to medical testing and donate vital organs.

My Thoughts:  I really enjoy dystopian novels and this one appeared to have an unusual twist with a character to whom I could easily relate – a middle aged women with bohemian tendencies. There are a number of things that I liked about the book.

It felt like a translation and I love translations. You can explore the locale and psyche of another country through the text with its unusual language nuances. This book was no exception with its lovely description of the local plants, landscape, and weather, as well as subtle differences in its cultural perspective.

There is a secondary plot line which could be described as a romance. I particularly liked that the few unusual sex scenes included are not like your standard fare, which I usually skip over or laugh at.

There are a few political topics which come up in the novel such as ageism and a subtly twisted version of feminism, which make for great for discussion topics.

The novels I enjoy the most leave me with questions, and The Unit poses a few good ones. What kind of a democracy would value economic growth so much that it would sacrifice its older members? Is the nature of democracy only about growth?  How could a political system purportedly concerned with freedom develop like the one which is represented in this book? 

A fairly short novel it starts out slowly yet picks up considerably where it becomes both illuminating and heart wrenching. It summarizes a few subtle elements of human experience in enlightening and relatable ways. And the best part is that it was just plain scary. It is because of these things it will be placed in my favorite’s list - on balance 4.5 stars.

  • The Unit
  • by Ninni Holmqvist  (translated by Marlaine Delargy)
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (June 9, 2009)

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