The Giver by Lois Lowry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read the German version of The Giver (Hüter der Erinnerung) many years ago, and apparently liked it enough to take the book with me when I moved out. More recently, I happened to watch the movie that was made out of it, and then also read my copy of the book again. I still enjoyed it, but remembered that I never really understood the ending. So I went online to learn more about that, and found that there's three more books from the same universe. Obviously, I went right ahead and bought the whole The Giver Quartet in English. Now, about The Giver...
This novel takes place in a utopian/dystopian community that has converted to Sameness. Sameness means that there are no different skin tones (though they still have different hair and eye colours, apparently), no changes in climate/weather, and no hills. The people in communities with Sameness have also lost their ability to see colours, and can only have shallow feelings. Age is only important until you are 12, and all children become a year older at the December Ceremony, regardless of their actual date of birth (which is always 50 children per year, by the way). Sameness! Different genders and character traits are still allowed, though, and adults applying for a spouse will be matched meticulously, just like the Twelves are matched with their future assignments.
An Eleven boy called Jonas is the main character of the book. He is chosen to become the next Receiver of Memory - a very high honour, but most people don't actually know what the Receiver does. That's because he (or she, but he in this case) is the only one who carries the memories of the past, of the days before Sameness. And there is no way to describe to the Community what colours or death or real feelings are. Therefore, the Receiver is honoured, but also lonely and suffering from the knowledge the rest of the Community doesn't want to suffer from.
The ideas of The Giver are certainly interesting, and it's fascinating to get to know the way of life in Sameness. I can imagine that genetic engineering for this could be possible some day. Things get a bit weird at some point, though, when you're looking at the book scientifically. Jonas being able to see colours? Hmm, fine, could be a mutation or something. Transmission of memories from the past by the touch of hands on backs? Huh. And the ending? I still don't get that at all.
In the end, I'll just have to accept that this is not only scifi, but also a bit magic - a strange mix, and unexpected when you first start reading the book. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to reading Gathering Blue next.
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