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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Review: The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist


At the end of this book I cried. Not with sadness at Dorrit's sacrifice and losses. But because since I've been an adult, I've never read a book that I felt so understood me. Those were the words I thought to myself as hot tears came to my eyes: "she understands." It is Elsa I cried for. And all the others.

In the dystopian world of The Unit, when women turn 50 (and men 60), if they are unpartnered, childless, and not working at an Important Job, they are deemed unneeded and sent off to live in a Unit. Their every need will be seen to, everything is free, and they will participate in medical experiments, until they make their final donation of vital organs. This is the story of Dorrit, a single, childless artist who hits that milestone and is taken away, and what happens to her afterward. It is translated from the Swedish.
When you read a lot, you recognize that those tropes you hear about how there are only 7 plots in the world (or 10 or 5 or 3) are true. So when you run across a book with a truly novel point of view, you treasure it. I can recall no other book I've read that treats the single and childless with such respect. (And that respect that the members of the Unit are shown is frequently noted as it's the first time they've felt it in their lives.)

I dread my bookclub. As the only member who is single and one of only two who are childless, I feel I will be focused on. But this book has left me raw and I don't particularly want to talk about how I would feel heading off to a Unit as that's where I'd be headed in that world while everyone else stayed and didn't even notice I was gone for a couple of years. My only hope would be to work hard and become invaluable that way.

This book is powerful and heart-wrenching. It will stay with me forever.

8 comments:

nomadreader said...

I really wanted to read this book before I read your review, but now I want to drop everything else and read it now. Wow. I hope book club is enjoyable too.

Carin said...

I would say that's a good idea! But it's also a fast read so dropping everything to read it right away wouldn't actually be too much of a crimp on your day.

Nadia said...

Wow! I loved your review of this book. I bought this book on a whim and its been on my shelf for months now. Truthfully, I wasn't sure if I was going to read it after haveing read Never Let Me Go, but from what you wrote, I must read this book. It sounds like it will be right up my alley. Good luck at book club! I say represent us single, childless folk with pride :)

Jessica said...

Ive added this to my wish list, there some really great stuff which has been coming out of sweden the past few years. Thanks for the review.

Booksnyc said...

I hadn't heard of this book before your review but it definitely sounds like one that would affect me. I will put it on the list!

Carin said...

Update: book club was not as traumatic as I had worried, but I wasn't able to completely express my views as I worried I would start crying and I am NOT about to cry at book club. But it was a great discussion and everyone liked it medium or a lot. And we converted one of the mediums to a lot in the discussion.

Judylynn said...

This review reminds me of The Giver by Lois Lowry. Different plots, I know, but a little similar.

I'll be sure to look for this one. Sounds quite interesting.

Carin said...

Judylynn, I'm not the least bit surprised you made that parallel, with both being dystopian novels. I've never read The Giver although I asked my boss last month about borrowing his copy. (Well, his daughter's.)