Book Review Vox
VOX -Christina Dalcher
What would you do if you were limited to 100 words a day? What would you if you weren’t allowed to work, read, or use any form of communication such as sign language?
In Vox, this is the reality for women.
This review contains spoilers.
Set in a not too distant future, the women of America are limited to saying 100 words a day, or else a band on their wrist will give them an electric shock. There are cameras everywhere to make sure they are not communicating any other way. Mothers are not even allowed to blow a kiss to their daughter as she says goodbye to her on her way to school.
I was really, really intrigued by the plot of this book. I have been loving feminist fiction lately and I really couldn’t wait for this book to arrive! I really did end up liking this book, but I didn’t LOVE it in the way that I wanted to.
The book follows Jean, a married woman (who is actually also having an affair) with three children; two boys and a little girl who doesn’t really remember a life before her 100-word limit. I really liked the dynamic of this family and I think the characters were all written really well. The eldest son supports the ‘Pure Movement’ (having the 100 word limit on women and reverting them to pre-1950s lifestyle) and it was really interesting to see Jean battle with having to love her son but also kind of hating him at the same time. She completely dotes on her young daughter, for obvious reasons and I really understood the relationship between them.
While I thought the premise was really strong, I thought the execution of it could’ve been stronger. I think part of the problem was that this book wasn’t really what I expecting. I was expecting something Handmaid’s Tale-esque and by that I mean we are just following the everyday lives that women now have. But it turned into something completely different. It turned into Jean working for the government, eventually overthrowing it, and then leaving the country. For me, this didn’t seem right for this book and it wasn’t the sort of book that I wanted it to be, but hey, it was enjoyable to read.
The second problem that I had was that I didn’t really connect with Jean at all. I felt for her, I really felt for her. She had just had her power of speech taken away from her, she is having to watch her daughter grow up in this toxic world and she was stuck in a marriage that she was actually really unhappy in. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t find anything relatable about her. She spoke about her Italian lover a heck of a lot and I didn’t find anything that interesting about him either for her to be obsessed with him so much (he was so forgettable that I actually can’t remember his name!)
My third problem is probably a bit of a controversial one. I think that Jean should’ve had her 100-word limit band on her for much, much longer. I know, I know I am a terrible person but hear me out. These bands were horrible things, one woman even committed suicide by repeated electrocution with one of these things! BUT, I didn’t see it impact Jean personally as much as I wanted to. For the majority of the novel, neither Jean nor her daughter have the bands on them and to me, this diminishes the whole premise of the book. For the most part, Jean was able to speak as freely as she wanted and I often forgot that she actually lives in a world where women are not meant to be speaking more than 100 words. In my opinion, the book would’ve been a lot stronger if Jean had to work for the government with the band still on her and it would’ve become so much more impactful. I totally get that having the band taken off was what Jean’s conditions were to working for the government, but it didn’t seem all that believable to me that they would agree to these terms despite what is at stake. I’m sure this ruthless government could’ve found more ways to persuade Jean into working for them. For me, that would’ve been more powerful.
I know that this review might seem a little negative and complain-y but it really isn’t. It’s the type of book that everyone will have different opinions on because it is such an interesting premise. The things I didn’t really like about the book aren’t negative at all, they show that the book got me really thinking. I really was completely submerged into this world that seemed so real because it was so, so current. The world building was absolutely incredible, no stones were left unturned and I believed with every part of me this is world could exist.
Despite my own opinions, I think that this is a book that everyone should read, not just women. It is often incredibly hard to read and it will really set your emotions on a roller-coaster, but feminist books and reading about women have to go through, real or not real, is incredibly important.