It has been a very long time since a book has held me as enthralled as VOX has done over the last 48 hours. I feel as if I’ve been on a rollercoaster and as I sit here typing, my emotions are all over the place. It is a novel that is going to stay with me for a long time.
When I read the synopsis of the novel, I knew it was one for me. I’m a fan of dystopian fiction, and the best dystopian novels take a long hard look at society as it is, and propel forward to the very worst case scenario. The more of your own life, your own values and your own community you recognise, the closer it cuts to home. And this is what VOX does.
The novel alludes to things which are actually happening in the here and now, whilst reading I couldn’t help but think about the recent debates regarding abortion. It preaches that women should not sit back, that we should stand up for our rights. We need to find our voice as a collective as the question is hauntingly asked….what would we do if our voices were taken away?
This is the premise of the novel. Women have been silenced and are only allowed to use 100 words a day, with each word being counted off by a ‘bracelet’ worn on the wrist. A ‘bracelet’ that will deliver an electric shock if the limit is exceeded. There is no reading, writing or any other attempt to communicate allowed. Misogyny and patriarchy rule absolutely, and it is truly disturbing. Women have been completely silenced. Literally.
Told in the first person narrative through the eyes of Neurolinguist Dr Jean McClellan, we view life as it is for women in the present, and we also get to see via flashbacks of just how it became that way. For me, the saddest and most moving parts of the story were as Jean relayed the impact of the word limit on her relationship with her daughter. I won’t go into detail, but quite early on there is an incident where her inability to speak to her daughter prevented her from providing comfort. I’ll be honest, I was in pieces. I felt that the emotions conveyed were so raw and open, I could imagine just how useless Jean was feeling at her being prevented from providing so basic a need for her own child. The ramifications of the word limit is severe and filters through the generations ensuring the continued dominance and reliance on the male members of society. A mum myself, I couldn’t help but place myself in Jean’s shoes as she considered her daughters future. The mere thought of a submissive, silent life for my daughter brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.
The story is fast paced and thrilling to read, helped along by the short chapter lengths – a very enticing trick to get me to read ‘just one more chapter’ late at night when the midnight oil is well burnt! There is so much information, so much story and so much depth crammed in to this and it is skilfully woven throughout. My interest never waned and I felt constantly on the edge of my seat wanting more.
Whilst the story itself is gripping, it also teaches of the importance of language. I have never sat and thought about what my life would be like if my speech was so severely limited or if I wasn’t permitted to read or write. Language is a huge part of who we are, how we express ourselves and we do take it for granted.
This is truly a stunning novel. Compelling from the start, I was hooked from chapter one and I’ve been telling everyone I know just how amazing it is. I feel as if I’ve just read a book which is ‘Important’. VOX is a book which taps into something very current and relevant and then runs with it, presenting to the reader a chilling nightmare that we never knew had.
Neurolinguist Dr Jean McClellan, has become a woman of few words. One hundred words per day to be exact; any more and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins. She is not alone. Now that the new government is in power; no woman is able to speak over this limit without punishment.
Books are forbidden, bank accounts transferred to the closest male relative and all female employment suspended, while young girls are no longer taught to read and write. But when the President’s brother suffers a stroke, Jean is temporarily given back her voice in order to work on the cure. But things are not as they seem and Jean soon discovers that she is part of a much larger plan, to silence voices around the world for good.
About the Author
Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specialises in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and has taught at universities in the United States, England and the United Arab Emirates.
Over one hundred of her short stories and flash fiction appear in journals worldwide. Recognitions include the Bath Flash Award’s Short List; nominations for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions; and multiple other awards. She teaches flash fiction as a member of the faculty at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia. VOX is her first novel.
*I received a copy of VOX from the publisher HQ in exchange for an honest review