Sunday 14 March 2010

Hungry for more

I kept reading about this book, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, on blogs I have been visiting over the last few months, and in an attempt to lift Tish out of an 'I can't concentrate long enough to read anything' slump I requested it from the library. It has been a great success!

Tish picked it up, must have been Monday, because she took it with us when we went to the cinema and tried to read in the car. She was all finished probably by Wednesday and M took over and finished it by Thursday (5 am she tells me), and was already jumping up and down and telling me I had to read it. Now I resisted this insistence when they were in their 'Twilight' phase, I don't like vampires much, am very squeamish, but this time I gave in. I started with a little taster at bedtime on Friday, and then took it in to work Saturday morning (when I have half an hour to kill) and sat till after 1am this morning to finish it. This included a trip out yesterday afternoon. I had requested the second book, 'Catching Fire', but people were getting impatient. Tish had tried our local bookshop with no success, so we eventually drove over to Jaffé and Neale's in Chipping Norton. Unfortunately they did not have a copy so we had to go to WHS over the road, but then went back and I browsed their poetry section for a while and came away with 'Answering Back' edited by Carol Ann Duffy, which consists of poets selecting a poem and then writing their own response to it, which seems like a wonderful idea, so watch this space. And we had World Book Day tokens so I bought M a copy of 'The Harsh Cry of the Heron' by Lian Hearn, the last book in the 'Across the Nightingale Floor' series that she has loved.

(Spoiler warning)
So, to the book. A really nasty post apocalyptic dystopia, basically a slave society, set in the far future, but in what is left of America. The country is divided up into a series of 'districts' controlled by a 'Capitol', and most of them kept in grinding poverty to maintain a lavish lifestyle for those in charge. The authoritarianism is not the worst of it. In order to reinforce the 'divide and rule' situation each year they hold 'The Hunger Games', where 'tributes' of one girl and one boy are sent from each district to fight it out to the death in a specially prepared and controlled arena. And it is all compulsory viewing for the rest of them.

It is told in a first person narrative, so you kind of know Katniss is not going to get killed, but that does not lessen the tension of the story. It is written very fast paced, but with enough pauses for breath that you can relax for a moment. The first few chapters set the scene, describing her family background, how she lives and survives, and keeps her family alive, and her friendship with Gale. Then she takes her sister Prim's place when she is selected for the games, and she gets on the rollercoaster ride that must be ridden to the very end. The games have something of Big Brother about them as the contestants are first brushed and polished and dressed up for the entertainment of the audience, who can choose to 'sponsor' the contestants, providing them with gifts to help them survive. Then they are thrown in to the arena and must pits their skills and their wits against people much more brutal and just as determined.

Katniss is an excellent heroine, tough and resourceful, but believably so because of her history. Peeta is the boy from her district and it turns out she already has a bond with him, and he with her. The other participants are more vague, many die within moments, and what happens to them is peripheral to Katniss' struggle for survival. Then the rules are changed, apparently allowing the two district tributes to work together, and so Katniss goes in search of Peeta, saving his life as he once saved hers.

There were moments when I was irritated by 'inventions' that seemed out of place in the environment that the author had created, but on the whole this was a very satisfying read, and I am in the queue for the next one.

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