With an intriguing premise and clever writing I found this to be an incredibly engaging and addictive read.
Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.
On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial–this can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.
This is just the beginning.
Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.
But this is not the end.
For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Despite being bombarded with promotion for this book all over social media it was only when I read the premise that I decided it was one I had to read. I was suspicious of all of the comparisons to the Handmaids Tale (I’m suspicious of all comparisons though) but there are actually a lot of similarities in the world the author creates. Due to a change in political power and the influence of religion, America is seeking a return to “traditional values” and family roles. The men are educated, given jobs, bring home money and make all of the decisions and the women are there to support them by keeping house.
Where it diverges however, and what fascinated me, is that this is enforced by limiting women’s access to words and language. Every woman/girl is given an allocation of 100 words a day and is fitted with a counter to ensure they stick to it. They are not permitted to read or write, have no access to computers, mobile phones or tablets and there are cameras set up to ensure they don’t communicate by any other means. It’s extreme but it really intrigued me. How would a loss of language affect your life, how would it affect your relationships and the dynamics within a family?
Through a number of situations and little nuggets of detail the author does an incredible job of portraying this world in a way which feels very real and easy to imagine. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into it in the way that the author answers almost all of the questions I had about what kind of impact this would have on the day to day life of different types of people. There are maybe a few too many coincidences and it lacks a little subtlety at times but it gets the message across.
I liked that the main character Jean (Gianna) was a former professor of neurolinguistics and the opportunities this gave for bringing a lot of the science into the story to give it a bit more depth and direction. Jean herself is a complicated character and I thought it was interesting how flawed the author made her. There was a lot I could relate to and empathise with but there were aspects of her behavior I just didn’t like or agree with. I also thought it was good the way the author brought in different and very diverse characters to illustrate the impact this society was having on them.
For a debut this is a pretty impressive book. I did have some minor quibbles with some of the writing, I found the alternate scenarios irritating and there were a couple of jumps which confused me but otherwise it was very readable. The pacing was pretty much spot on and I loved how the author managed to work in the events leading up to the current position without info dumping.
Overall this was a truly engaging read with a fascinating premise. One I’d definitely recommend.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this. As always all views are my own.