Saturday, 5 December 2009

Review:- Christine AZIZ – “The Olive Readers”

Publ: 2005
My own copy
ISBN: 978-0-330-43963-3
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 340p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** ****

What led you to pick up this book?
I was attracted by the blurb which talked of an era in the future when books were banned. Anything that suggests that sort of future is of interest – and fear – to me.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
Earth, the future, and the planet is ruled by a Federation of Countries (The Olive Country, the Water Country) run by companies that have evolved out of the multinational giants today, "their corporate tentacles reaching into your politicians' pockets and sending you into a deep trance with their cheap gadgets and entertaining propaganda". There are no books, no history. Populations are subservient to the relevant company, and the Water Country subjugates all others.

Sisters Jephzat and Hephzibah live with their parents in the Olive Country. Hephzibah disappears with Water soldiers and Jephzat's parents are sent away, leaving Jephzat in a big old house that is discovered to contain a secret room filled with forbidden artefacts of enormous power.

What did you think of the characters and style?
It took me a few pages to get into this book but I am very glad I persisted. It reminded me of the futuristic novels of the middle of the twentieth century.
In terns of style, you only have to read the couple of quotations below to appreciate that Christine Aziz has a wonderful way with words.  This is a modern classixc.

What did you like most about the book?

At no stage did I feel it was unbelievable – which is really rather worrrying.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
These will form a separate posting.!!!

Would I recommend it?

It started with the war, but when was that? It wasn’t a war that passed us by with faint rumblings and the smell of smoke above the hills and olive groves. It walked into our house and seduced us all, even though its cause hardly mattered to us. It was the axis upon which our memories now turn and yet, as with all wars, it solved nothing, merely shifting a heavily guarded border thirty kilometres further south. The villagers have ceased weeping for those murdered by the bands of passing soldiers, but we are still mourning for the ancient olive trees that were blasted from the earth, their wood dissolving silently in the air.
(That phrase – “It was the axis upon which our memories now turn..” really sums up any time in which people live in the era following a war.)

I wanted to gorge myself on syntax, lick words curling from the paper into my mouth, nibble daintily on alphabets as if they were sweets.

I could already smell the books’ muskiness and in my mind turned over pages with as many differing textures as a forest; pages that were brittle and fragile which had to be coaxed to turn; pages that were soft and scented, presenting their words as if they were a gift in the palm of the hand, and pages that fell open heavily of their own accord as if weighted by the importance of their message.

CHRISTINE AZIZ In 2005 Christine Aziz was selected from 46,000 hopefuls and a long list of 26 titles to become winner of the Richard & Judy/C4 'How to Get Published' competition. Her debut, The Olive Readers, was published in October 2005. Among the jobs she has held have been teacher, cleaning lady, community worker, actress, factory packer, singer and receptionist. Christine lives in Bournemouth and works as a homeopath and freelance journalist.

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