From the second I picked up this “The Girl With All The Gifts”, I was hooked. Usually it takes a couple of chapters for me to really immerse myself in a book, but this was kind of different. For a story with so many inhuman elements, it’s one of the most moving and gripping books I’ve read.
It’s hard to write about without giving away a twist that occurs early on in the novel, but it’s set in an almost-apocalyptic, dystopian Britain where the remaining population look to military bases and their soldiers for survival. I had only really scanned the book before buying it at the airport, and I’m not entirely sure I would have bought it had it just been described an a dystopian thriller. But this is really where the magic lies within the book; it’s ability to remain original but relatable, thrilling yet heart warming.
In one of the Military bases lives a 10 year old girl named Melanie, whose life alternates between a small cell and a classroom along with other classmates. However, unlike most school children Melanie and her classmates are strapped and restrained in a chair when moving from cell to class. But it’s Melanie’s Teacher Miss Justineau and her stories of Greek Mythology that really bring Melanie to “life”. The character of Miss Justineau reminded me of Miss Honey in Matilda and her role of the surrogate Mother – although there is an inescapable element of negotiating identities throughout the novel.
Melanie narrates most of the story – the idea of a child narrative might seem problematic to most but the complexity of her character prevents her from succumbing to childhood clichés. The presence of other narrators throughout the novel is another narrative device that contributes to its success; Scientist Caroline Caldwell, who is initially perceived as an “Evil Scientist” type figure. However, the novel reveals several facets to her personality and we wonder whether she is really striving for Scientific knowledge, or simply for survival. Military Sergeant Parks and young soldier Gallagher also play central roles in this journey through apocalyptic Britain.
MR Carey manages to write along familiar plot and narrative structures, yet still rise above them to produce a novel that truly connects with its readers. The plot can feel a bit shaky at times, but the mystery surrounding the characters quickly draw you back in.
^^me with the book