Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Returners - Gemma Malley

Gemma Malley's new book The Returners is not an easy read. Originally picked for the school book group the consensus of adult opinion was that the book was not suitable for the first year age group 12/13 and that only confident 14 yr olds would find the book manageable. The book is set in the Britain of 2016, a time of economic collapse where racism and intolerance is on the rise.

Will, the main character, is living at home with his father. His mother has died. Will's memories of her death, whilst vivid, do not explain how his mother ended up in the water. Will's belief, reinforced by his father's explanation, is that she committed suicide.

Will's father, a lawyer, is under the sway of Patrick a member of a BNP type political party that espouses deportation for non nationals. When Will witnesses a violent act Patrick and his Father make sure that Will remembers correctly what exactly happened but Will suffers from memory lapses, vivid dreams and nightmares. He also believes that people are following him. As Will remembers more of his past he finds out things about himself that are disturbing and horrifying. Can he change his future?

Gemma Malley's dystopian novel is not an easy read for several reasons, the vivid nightmares Will has about Auschwitz and the massacres in Rwanda together with the fact that Will is not a likeable character are some. Issues abound which would keep an older book group, 15+ perhaps, talking for ages, rascism, spin, social attitudes to immigrants and their communities particularly in times of economic downturn, whether there is such a thing as preordained outcomes or whether we make our own future.

A worthwhile but difficult read that will not have universal appeal.

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