Skip to main content
PBS logo

Book Review of The Giver (Giver, Bk 1)

The Giver (Giver, Bk 1)
The Giver (Giver, Bk 1)
Author: Lois Lowry
Genre: Children's Books
Book Type: Paperback
reviewed on + 4 more book reviews

Perhaps I'm biased, because I just read 1984 not too long ago, but this book does remind me of 1984. I wouldn't be surprised if the author got inspired by 1984, either consciously or subconsciously. But again, she might have come up with it on her own. That this and 1984 belong in the same dystopian framework is fairly apparent: the orderly society, the all-imposing bureaucracy that dictates what you do and controls how you should behave, the lack of real emotion including love, hate, anger, longing, ... (Now, if you're a Buddist follower, you'd think that the lack of those emotions is not necessarily a bad thing, but that's a totally different topic).

What is more unique about this book (and make it a good read) is the calmness and nonchalance with which society seems to carry on. Unlike 1984, here there's no outwardly sinister characters or scheme. Society appear to have been designed for everyone's own good. Thus the malevolence (if one can call is that) is very subtle, almost like the breeze (that no longer exist in a climate-control society). Gradually one comes to really how chilling life really is behind the gentle and caring facade, and I give the author kudos for being able to do that in a relatively short book.

My reservations about the book is the lack of logical coherence. For example the setting: it's set in a futuristic society, but they're just a small part of the land? Their climate is controlled, the outside is not, but there's no apparent boundary? What do people do outside, why can't they just come over and visit (and cause upheaval in this society)? This advanced society has so many technological means, and yet they can't find a boy carrying a baby on bicycle? For months? And the two of them can survive months on the road, in the open, with nothing to eat and no tool to find food? I felt like in the rush to make a "cool" ending, the author kind of rushed a bit and didn't quite think through what would make sense. Granted, I know the plot is more important than the details, but I'd still prefer it to make sense than just force things on us and ask us to accept.

Btw I've also watched the movie version. Unlike other book-to-movie projects, for this I like the movie a great deal. They've managed to adapt very well, while also attempted to address some of the book's incoherence I talked about. In an effort to make the movie more exciting and less subtle, they've made the society and the Chief Leader a lot more sinister than in the book. It's all good though, it makes for a pretty compelling movie, while many of the original themes in the book are still retained. If you've read, I'd recommend the movie too.