Books Read in 2021 – 19. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopia,

Narrative Style: First person, chronological

Published: 1955

Rating: 4/5

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: After some sort of nuclear war, the world is living in fear of genetic mutations. When David discovers he has his own mutation – he can communicate telepathically – he has to try and keep it secret so he won’t be rooted out as an abomination.

Time on shelf: This was a loan. When we were putting this list together, we watched Britain’s Favourite Novel on Channel 5. The Day of the Triffids was on the list but I had already read that and all the other John Wyndham we have (Chocky and The Kraken Wakes) so I asked my in-laws to loan me this one.

This was very enjoyable. Wyndham doesn’t give any details about what happened because David is a child at the beginning and so doesn’t really understand what might have happened. He just knows that his community worship the perfect image as being holy and anything that deviates is sinful. There is some talk about the ‘old people’ but no one really knows much about them.

We see what happens to those who are different when it is discovered that his friend, Sophie, has six toes. David has been keeping this secret for while. He doesn’t really understand why it’s such an issue. It seems like such a small thing but when another boy realises and tells the authorities, her family have to leave immediately for fear she will be killed.

David has his own secret to keep. He is able to communicates telepathically with a small group of other children including his half-cousin, Rosalind, who he later falls in love with. They keep their secret well until one of the group decides to get married. She is unable to keep the secret from her husband but before he can do anything, he is murdered.

David’s sister, Petra grows up to be an incredibly strong telepath, so much so that when she is in trouble, she is able to call the others to her. When this raises suspicions, two of the group are captured and tortured and the rest of them go on the run. Petra becomes able to detect other telepaths in country called Zealand which is very far away. She asks the Zealanders to rescue them.

Zealand is a country where telepathy is the norm. They ‘think together’. There the non-telepathic are shunned and the telepaths see themselves as the future. They come and rescue David and his friends, killing a lot of innocent people in the process. Something they don’t seem too concerned about.

As is the way with The Day of the Triffids, although David is safe at the end, there are issues with the Zealanders. They happily kill many while helping David, Petra and the others escape, they think they are the ultimate in evolution and have no sympathy for those they consider to be lesser. They are no different from David’s parents in some ways, so sure they are the only true form.

This was perhaps the strangest of Wyndham’s books that I have read so far. It was further removed from reality than the others have been in its setting and I didn’t find it as gripping as some of the others but the questions it brought up and the things it made me think about made it a worthwhile read.

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