Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry is the sequel to The Giver and it set in the same future time period, except as opposed to Jonas’ world which seems utopian, this is very much dystopian. A new central character is introduced, Kira. It was surprising to see a new character when I had previously thought I would be reading about Jonas’ fate which is ambiguous but most likely that he is in fact is alive. It’s always interesting when you have new characters and you have to decide whether to like them or not. I did, I really did but if I’m honest, I preferred reading about Jonas – probably because even though his world was not that great, I liked it better than Kira’s.
If I’m being brutally honest it was a little disheartening starting the next book and finding out it wasn’t Jonas’ story anymore. I’m wondering how this is all going to piece together – one story is very much modern and this one is very much rural and stripped back to its foundations. I rather missed Jonas and his world, probably because in some ways it was similar to ours – school, jobs, people and the roles that people had. Equal might I add, what really annoyed me – not the writing or the characters because they were great! – But the version of the world Kira lives has decided that women have no rights. For me, that was already off putting.
However, despite that, you seem to love Kira and her innocence yet the strange sense of maturity she has. She has gone through what a lot of us would never have to experience. First off, being born with a twisted leg which hinders her walking. Second off, being born into a world where women have virtually no rights, we are very lucky to be living in the world we live in (yes, it’s not perfect but looking at everything a woman can do – anything might I add – could we have done that years ago? No. Don’ttake that for granted. Instead, try to push for more! It’s only up from here). Thirdly, after the amount time she has with her mother, her mother passes away. She has no father and is extremely poor. Finally, she now has no family and yet in the face of that, she stands up and decides that she’s not going to mourn yet. She is going to push on. She’s going to keep living. For that, I really admire her strength.
Another reason why I like her is her curiosity, her want for life and need to grow. She stands up to the Council after being wrongly convicted by a spiteful woman, Vandara. Despite having all her flaws pointed out, she stands strong and is defended by a man of the Council, Jamison. She has this child like curiosity to her, that naive innocence that is so refreshing to read about. Usually, when a child goes through what she has, they stop and don’t want to continue or they become rebellious. It was nice to read about a different reaction to something so morbid, as horrible as it was for her. Her thirst for life and knowledge is also something I loved. I loved how gifted she was in what she does – her artistic ability, how she was able to use thread and art to create the paths of the future. It was definitely a surprising turn this book took, in comparison to The Giver.
Next, I really liked her relationships. Her friendship with Matt is so pure and innocent. He is such an adorable character and he brings life, happiness to such a dull and dark world. It’s like seeing a beautiful rose in the midst of mud. They rely on each other – Matt for Kira’s stories, friendship and strength in character while Kira depends on Matt for his joy, friendship and happiness. He really looks up to her and tries to look after her as she looks after him, despite him being a few years younger than her.
I also really liked Thomas. He seems so genuine. He seems to really care about Kira and he wants to help her whenever he can. They discover things together; they discover the dark underbelly of the Council and the place they were staying in. They discover Jamison’s darker side, the child Jo being kept in the building and what was happening to the Singer. She tells Thomas of many things and him to her – their families and where they came from. When she asks him of something, he seems to really want to do what she says and even when he needs something, she is willing to help him. She shows him her gifts with dye, art and thread while he shows her his gifts with carving. He teaches her to read (which is also something I hated about this part of the world she lived in, women couldn’t read) and even though she couldn’t, it seems she already knew – like it had been taken from her previously.
The story line was very intriguing. Kira’s world is much darker than Jonas’. It’s stripped back to the basics; people live in huts and off scraps or by hunting animals in a forest. It seems simple yet harsh and as if when our world ended, it went two ways, surged forwards in one area and was pulled back in another. But in both there are problems. In this world, you either pick up, live or you’re left for dead. Flaws are seen in disgust and you’re left to die in the Fields where ‘beasts’ come to take you away. The Council are harsh; with all their riches, they do not share and the rest of the village work and live in little huts with next to nothing. It’s even worse for those living in the Fen where they are dirty and have hardly any food. People of privilege or gifts (who are discovered by the Council) are taken up to live with the Council and work for them with the comforts of a nice home – this happens to Kira and Thomas. But they both soon discover it is too good to be true. Like in The Giver, there is someone who has all knowledge – The Giver and in here, The Singer. Except, while The Giver is cherished and lives a nice but lonely life, The Singer is kept trapped and chained. The Singer, who sings the Song in the place where the Council stay represents a person who has all knowledge but is stifled and kept as an animal in a place that was once a place of religion. Kira discovers this when she sees his blooded and misshapen feet which bleed out onto the stage when he leaves The Gathering – a festival of sorts where the village gather to hear the Song of the past, our present and future and their past.
Both parts of this world share secrets, Jonas’ world has emotions and colour and all those bright things taken from life to keep their people in a utopia while in Kira’s the Council control their people with cruel ways. They are led to believe that they cannot leave because of monsters in the forest, like the Old and those unsatisfactory in Jonas’ world are Released; here they are taken to the Fields to die. The Council oppress those with gifts and try to control them, like the Singer, like Jo, the new child singer would be in years to come and soon the same would happen to Kira and Thomas, even though they both know they are still not free now.
The Council of Guardians in Council Edifice is really what we would have to be a church. It seems to have old stained windows, so perhaps a Catholic church. We know that it’s definitely a church because of the Cross, which they have lost knowledge of and call the Object – but they still know that it was once something powerful, so they bow and pray, unknowing to what it actually stands for. Jamison who works at this place is the one who defends Kira and seems to be her friend. He knew her mother who used to be really good at arts and threading, which is now what Kira’s job will be. He knew her father before he was taken by beasts (or that is what everyone is led to believe). He defends her and allows her stay. But when she hears him shouting one evening, she realises he may not be that nice. It’s soon after this that they discover, Jo, the small child who will take over once the present Singer has passed. She is young and has a beautiful voice that just comes to her magically. For a young child she knows a great deal and it all comes out in her songs, songs that for some reason (probably control) Jamison does not want others hearing. He wants everyone to hearThe Song, a song of destruction and why we failed, he wants them to hear his version of the past and the future.
When Kira meets her thought-to-be-dead father, Christopher, she is overwhelmed. Matt, her lovely and helping friend had gone off to find blue for Kira as making the colour blue for dye was lost on them. Only Annabella knew of how, Kira’s teacher and her mother’s teacher as well (much like The Giver to Jonas) and that it was kept yonder, further into the forest. But Annabella was taken from Kira, killed because she told Kira that there are no beasts in the forest. Again, it is Jamison who ordered this and who oversaw her death. Here, the reader and Kira now know, he is not to be trusted. So, when Matt returns with blue and Kira’s father, she is overwhelmed with joy. Her father comes from another village, freer and peaceful, away from the horrid town. This is where the flawed and others from all over come to join. There are no beasts. It is helpers who take the ‘flawed’ away and here, they are cared for. This is what happened to Christopher, who was injured during a hunt – it was previously thought that beasts had taken him, but in fact it had been Jamison who had hurt him out of jealousy because Christopher was to be on the Council and not Jamison. With Christopher gone, Jamison was able to gain power.
The book ends with Kira and her new found knowledge and plans to make the future right, she promises her father she will see him again but she cannot go with him. Matt decides to live with her father and he hints at a boy with amazing blue eyes for Kira to marry (we later find out who this is in the next book) but she refuses. She decides to stay. She needs to make things right.
Throughout the book, it occurred to me that while Jonas’ world was much like ours in technology and modernisation of life, this was more to do with nature – magic even. I liked the magical element to this book. Kira has a magical talent with her hands as does Thomas and they can hear things. Kira’s cloth seems to whisper messages to her, while Thomas’ first carving does the same for him. There definitely was some magic in this book which I liked a lot.
However, there were things I didn’t like. Lois Lowry’s writing is so fluid and creative, it’s not her book or writing or characters that were at fault, but the world. I really, really didn’t like the oppression of women. They can’t hunt, they can’t read, they can’t do anything but be the housewives and work in huts. It was quite frustrating but in that way it made me like Kira more because she defied all of that. I hope in the next books this is rectified, because at least in Jonas’ world there was no status or role difference between men and women – they were equals. I found myself getting quite agitated at Kira’s world and I know it’s a book and that’s not what the book is essentially about but I honestly, didn’t like that part very much. Women couldn’t be on the Council, they didn’t have a say – it was all very backwards and set my blood on fire. Maybe that’s the mark of good story telling, to the get the reader all pumped up but it wasn’t what I expected at all. Another point, as I previously mentioned, I missed Jonas and Gabe. I think while I really liked this book too, I preferred Jonas’ world and the first book. Maybe it’s because of the women thing, perhaps if it wasn’t like that I would’ve liked it better, I don’t know. But it was definitely the change in character that was a big jump for me. I also preferred the modern setting of The Giver and how to me, that made more sense. Jonas as a character, I connected to more and I think in that way I was drawn in more. I came to really care for him and Gabe and I did with Kira, Thomas and Matt but there was a difference, small, but it was there.
Apart from those points, I really liked this book. I’m onto the next book now and I have no clue as to how this is all going to tie up (which is also a sign of good writing, there is no predictability). I can’t wait to see how it will all turn out and what the fate of the other book’s characters will be like. I really, really hope the oppression of women doesn’t continue – I know it happens in many books and all through history and in some countries today (count your blessings it’s not in the country you live in) but honestly, it sort of pulls me out of the world – I can’t connect or enjoy it and that spoils it a little. However, don’t take it that I didn’t enjoy this book. I did and I really liked the characters and the way Lois writes is effortless, but there was a difference, for me anyway, in comparison to the first one. But, here’s to hoping and onto the next book!