Thanks to Netgalley and Faber and Faber for an arc to review!
The Glimpse by Claire Merle deals with a future London that is divided into two sections, one is the Community where the “Pures” live, the people that don’t have a mental disability, the other part is the outside world, the city, where the “Crazies”, people with a gene that could lead to a mental illness live; they are the people that are considered dangerous and a risk to society. The protagonist, Ana, was considered a ‘Pure’ and she lives in the Community. However it turns out there has been made a mistake in her DNA test and she does actually carry the gene that would make her prone to a mental illness according to society. Because she is bound to me married to Jasper, a Pure boy, Ana is allowed to keep living in the Community unless she does become ill or Jasper decides not to marry her.
This is the premise of the book and how it starts, however shortly before their bounding date ceremony, Jasper is abducted by a sect like group of people and because the authorities don’t do anything about it, Ana decides to try and find him herself and sneaks out of the Community. As she makes her way in the City looking for clues that might lead her to Jasper she meets a group of people believed to be involved in the abduction. However as Ana slowly finds out, things she has believed to be true her whole life aren’t as she thinks they are.
It seems like this book has stirred up quite some controversy because of it’s theme of mental illness. I think, however, that the fact Claire Merle decided to take up this kind of theme for a dystopian novel is quite interesting and it’s a daring concept to tackle. Surely, she didn’t mean to offend any people with it and it’s just another way for a government to oppress a society and enforce their rules on people. Besides throughout the book, it’s quite obvious that Merle does not approve of a society like this (and I doubt any writer of a dystopian novel would, they are just showing us yet another way of a possible future).
It took me quite a while to get into the book and I think I never really completely felt it. Sometimes it seemed to slow and at other times it seemed like random plot developments were thrown in. There were certain passages that really engaged me, especially in the third half of the books, but it didn’t put me completely under its spell and I’m not sure I can put a finger on what it was exactly. I did like the brutal honestly some parts were written with, especially the passages in the mental institution and I think that was when I really got into the book and where I finally found what I was missing before.
I’m not really convinced by Ana, the protagonist, but I can see how others might like her but I didn’t think she was as strong as other female leads but this could obviously be explained by the fact that she has been fed lies all her life and grew up in the protected Community. In general I wasn’t really convinced by other characters in the book either, they could have been fleshed out a bit more and given a bit more detail. Another thing that didn’t really work for me, was the romance part of the book because it didn’t really feel real and it was done way too quickly in my opinion. In the end I also feel that too much value is put on the romance story instead of delving more into what’s wrong in society.
I will probably pick up the second book of this series as well to see how the story develops and hopefully we will get to know more about what is wrong with the world and an actual kind of revolution. I’m also looking forward to reading more about the glimpse the book get its title from and the Enlightenment project, both of which we didn’t really get to know a lot about in this first installment.
Lastly, props to whoever designed the cover!