Wednesday 6 May 2009

Book Review: Christina Aziz - The Olive Readers

The title of this book looked very familiar, but I could not recall from where, so when I saw a copy for £1 at market, I decided to give it a try.

Having just finished the action-packed Sabriel triology by Garth Nix, I fancied something a little bit more thoughtful.

The Olive Readers is set in in a future which is radically different from today. Large business corporations have taken over the governments of the world and eradicated previous languages, history, maps and culture. The only language spoken is “Federalese” and commissioners are placed in every town and village to ensure that the corporations are obeyed completely. No-one knows which race they belong to or where they originate from. Whole groups of people are moved from place to place so that it is impossible to put down roots. Books are banned entirely. Through the course of the book we come to realise that global warming has already happened, millions have suffered and died and the earth became uninhabitable. This is until the coming of a mysterious and charismatic young women called Maya who teaches people about respecting the earth and taking only what you need. The big corporations take on her teachings at first, but she mysteriously disappears and the corporations take over whole countries with the citizens being reduced to a conditioned workforce.

The book is written in the form of a letter to us from the future. The writer is Jephzat, introduced to us as a gauche young woman from a family of handsome, wealthy , talented scientists who lives in a backwater place known only as the Olive Federation because the area’s sole produce is olives (In contrast to the Water Federation who holds sway over all of the other Federations).

Power-play amongst the Federations leads to war in the Olive Federation and we see the loss of many lives and the mysterious disappearance of Jephzat’s beloved sister. Following this, the Federation move Jephzat’s parents to another city to continue secret research, leaving her behind.

The lonely and vulnerable Jephzat is watched over by various servants and villagers and Homer, one of the olive-pickers who falls in love with her. Homer introducers her to the Readers or more specifically the “Olive Readers” (indicating that there are other branches in other federations). The Readers illegally collect and preserve books hoping to regain lost knowledge and find a way to end the tyranny of the federations.

This book was part post-apocalyptic fiction (a genre I love), part love story, part action novel. Think The Chrysalids by John Wyndham or George Orwell. Another writer she has been compared to is Margaret Atwood and I felt that this comparison was apt when considering the writing style.

The first half of the book is slower and more intense. I found the love story achingly sweet, it haunted me for days afterwards and I kept going back to the parts with the two charachters. There is much exploration of the effects of war on people and the relationship between Jephzat and her sister. The second half of the book felt very different, after the leisurely read of the first half, it suddenly takes off and events seem to get ahead of themselves. I think this is understandable considering that the author says it took her many years to write the first part and two months to write the second part.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book (the first half more than the second half) although I could have killed the Aziz for the plot turn that the love story takes, this is a testament to how deeply it affected me.


  1. Wow, sounds interesting. Certainly like nothing I've ever read before!

  2. Assalamvalekum Dear.....Long time...How r u? sounds very nice book....