In the not too distant future, the genetic mutations for all mental illnesses have been identified. In order to protect the human race, Pure communities have been set up, where only those who pass the Pure test can live and continue their genetic heritage by starting families. The Carriers and Sleepers must live in the City and are medicated by the state. Those who become Active are rounded up by the Psyche Watch and sent to mental institutions. Ana is a Pure, awaiting the day she will become bound to Jasper.
After a shaky start, The Glimpse turned out pretty fantastic. But first impressions count and the setting of the scene was a little awkward and rushed in an attempt to get a few key facts across. It’s reliant on a quick tell instead of a show, Ana is a Pure, her mother died, she remembers seeing her mother in hospital and not recognising her, that she requested a death certificate and now she is found out, her mother committed suicide, she is not Pure, her father faked the results and he happens to be the geneticist who invented the Pure test. And breathe. It’s a lot of information to be thrown at you in the first chapter and it is done a little clumsily. Perhaps the narrative mirrors Ana’s slow realisation that she’s been brought up to believe what she’s told because as the story continues, the writing becomes about more about showing what’s going on instead of telling the reader. Something that might have come across better in a first person narrative.
However, I don’t want to dwell too long on the poor start. I decided I’d give it a bit more of my time even though I wasn’t expecting much and I was very much proved wrong. What at first seems like just another dystopian teen novel, starts to unravel and explore the horrors of eugenics. Because the Pure system is a eugenics program, where only those consider genetically superior can breed and get the best jobs and homes. Just like the eugenics carried out in America in the 20th century, many thought they were doing no harm and what they were doing would help everyone in the long run. In the City, the underclass are controlled by drugs and patrols but they somehow seem more normal and have more freedom than Ana at least. But there’s another layer, the seedy underbelly of the future government of England.
In the early stages of the book, where Ana still believes in the world she has been brought up in, there are a few things that I thought didn’t make sense. The beauty of this book is that they’re not meant to as Ana discovers more about the world, this discrepancies become clear. For instance there is a four year old boy who is depressed and suicidal and we are told this is not uncommon amongst the crazies. Not enough time has passed for this to be something that have evolved so I questioned it…but everything will make sense, I promise.
I also enjoyed the fact that it was set in London in around 30 years time. There was a lot that was recognisable to me and helped make the world of The Glimpse, utterly believable. The rest of the world hasn’t been forgotten about either, but they’re not in a very good state.
There’s a lot to think about, including segregation and the atrocities than humans manage to repeat throughout history. It’s hard to talk about eugenics without thinking about the Holocaust and there is some of the book that may be uncomfortable reading, especially if you realise these things are not a figment of someone’s imagination.
The Glimpse is published by Faber and Faber and will be available in paperback and ebook formats from 1st June 2012. Thanks go to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review via NetGalley.