Reading as resistance

The Olive Readers by Christine Aziz is set in the future after climate change has ravaged the earth. Large corporations have control of territories and the lives of those who live there. Everyone is kept in ignorance of the past and they know nothing outside their own area and their own tasks. Jephzat and her family live in a large, mostly deserted, house and have a special status in the area. But when Jephzat’s sister disappears with the soldiers that visit her parents are taken away too and Jephzat is left on her own. She falls in love with Homer, a local man and gatherer of olives, who introduces her to a hidden room in her own house filled with books which have been saved from destruction.

I liked the way that the author set the scene for this story. The isolated settlement which seems to adhere to the whims of the corporation which controls it also has secrets. A number of dystopian books assume the destruction of books such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury which I review here. Reading and learning are associated with freedom of thought and therefore are a threat to tyranny and in this novel Jephzat also joins those who are resisting and challenging the current way of life.

Eventually Jephzat leaves the olive region and becomes involved with the resistance to the rulers of this world. Once that happens I feel that the book loses its way a bit. Suddenly many more characters are introduced who have done things and have resources of which we have not previously been aware. The story becomes about something bigger than one woman learning how reading can change her life. I don’t think that the last third of the book was as good as the first part but I did find it all well written and enjoyable.

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