‘Gather the daughters’ is a novel that is both disturbing and thought-provoking. It is impossible to read this book however and not be struck by its similarity to other works. The story is a mixture of ‘The Handmaids Tale’ and M.Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Village’
Much of the darkest parts of Melamed’s novel, and let’s be clear, this is a dark book is alluded to rather than outright described. This was a wise choice, because if the true horrors were laid out word for word then I think the novel would have been too uncomfortable to finish.
The book is basic in its structure and switches the narrative throughout the book so that the story is told through the eyes of the young women in the community. It can take some concentration to keep the characters all straight in your mind but the naive nature of the children is captured well and helps lead you on through the story.
The book is set in a dystopian future of which the cause is somewhat nebulous. It hints at a post-apocalypse society but as the nature of the cause is unnecessary to the plot this is not really missed. There is little in the way of staple sci-fi tropes such as aliens and technology but again this does not matter as the story relies on its characterisation to carry it.
The pace of the book alters throughout the book, slowing in the middle and the ending is somewhat of a letdown Readers will have already devised their own ending as they read and no ending is ever going to match the imagination of the reader, inevitably leaving some disappointed. It does feel that Melamed didn’t know quite how to round off the narrative and it seems a little rushed but in her defence the conclusion of the novel wasn’t the point, more that it was an examination of trust and how communities can manipulate each other. He who controls his history controls the present is definitely the maxim for the island.
This is not a novel I would have picked up were it not shortlisted but I am glad I did. The story was engaging and Melamed creates a well rounded insular community in which to tell the story.
You can find ‘Gather the Daughters’ at all good booksellers. More information can be found at Tinder Press