Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Review: The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

ISBN: 978-1590513132
Publisher: Other Press
Paperback: 272 pages
First Line: It was more comfortable than I could have imagined.
One Word Review: Unsettling

Publisher's Description:

One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty–single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries–are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?

The Unit is the sort of book I have to read between other, more upbeat novels. It's distressing and emotional...certainly not the sort of story you finish with a smile and a sense that all is right with the world. I don't read dystopias often for that reason. I prefer my reading to carry me away from my problems not introduce new worries and sorrows. However, once in a while, one will come along that I feel is worth my time. This one was. I can't say I loved it. I am not sure it's the sort of book one can love. But I did appreciate the writing, the story, and the depth of the emotions it evoked.

Its strengths lie most in the characters. While I had very little in common with Dorrit, aside from being a woman, I still felt a connection with her. I am not sure if I really liked her or any of the other residents of The Unit, but I was able to sympathize with their situation and wish that somehow things could be different. At times, I found it frustrating because I wanted to reach into the pages and shake these people and ask them why they didn't stand up for themselves. That, I think is what makes it compelling. I began to question myself and how I might react in the situation. I'd like to think I'd fight tooth and nail rather than allow this sort of thing to occur.

It was definitely thought-provoking and well written, but it's not one I'd suggest for a bubble bath read.

Book Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


bermudaonion said...

I'll be reading this book soon and I know that I'll find it disturbing on some level especially since I'm 50.

Lenore said...

I am buying this the next time I buy books. Love dystopian fiction.

Violet said...

The plot sounds very similar to Never let me go. Disturbing.

Veens said...

Sounds interesting :)

Zibilee said...

I think this book sounds really intriguing and like something I should check out. I love dystopian fiction and had never came across this title, although I agree with the above poster, it does sound a lot like Never Let Me Go.

Traci said...

I've not read Never Let Me Go. I'll have to look that one up. I also have seen The Unit compared to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which I also haven't read.

Joanne said...

I just read this one and I couldn't believe how accepting everyone was in the Unit. There were a few offhand remarks, but they never seemed completely angry. I would love to have more back-story on this society's development.