Book Review – The Girl With All The Gifts

The Girl With All The Gifts (Kindle edition)
M. R. Carey
Publisher: Orbit (14 Jan. 2014)
417 pages

Melanie is a little girl who goes to school, has friends and loves books. She is inquisitive, intelligent and has a great memory. As the story unfolds we discover that she is underground in an army base with other children of her age. She is muzzled occasionally, and chained to her desk; and we discover she is part of an experiment. She seems to be a normal if gifted child until we discover what happens when she smells human flesh too closely.

We see the world through Melanie’s eyes but also those of Miss Justineau, her favourite teacher, who introduces her to Greek myths (including the story of the original girl with all the gifts, Pandora, and the box she opens). Then there’s Sergeant Parks, the man in charge of the base, and the scientist Caroline Caldwell, who would dearly like to open Melanie’s skull in order to find out why she’s so intelligent and why she represents such a menace to everybody.

Although the plot is fairly straight forward and linear it becomes evident that it could be made into a film and that is exactly what is happenening as M. C.Carey has equally written the screenplay.

The ending almost rushes out of nowhere but the strong characters – especially Melanie and Miss Justineau – are well drawn and it’s very difficult not to feel for them.

I don’t wish to to give away too much of the plot and take away the pleasure of discovery but it is a clever and often surprising ride and once Melanie finally visits the outside world, we discover a recognizeable but transformed version of Britain where Carey succeeds in creating a sense of constant menace.

The pace of the last 200 or so pages of this book increases a sense of tension and some scary situations are very well imagined.

Although it is not the sort of fiction I normally read, I enjoyed it cover to cover and would recommend it as a book club read as it would nourish some very interesting discussions.

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