The Girl With All The Gifts – M R Carey


Chosen by Jo

The Girl With All The Gifts is set in a medical facility in a dystopian reality. There, a group of young children are held in cells and transferred to a sterile concrete classroom strapped into wheelchairs and with loaded weapons at their heads. Behind steel doors they are taught mathematics, Greek mythology, reading and writing. They are told they are orphans but understand little of why they are there and who they really are.

If that is enough enticement to read this book we recommend not reading any more of this blog to ensure you get the full element of surprise, which is very much worth it. If you want to know more, here it is.

The dystopian plot of the book is set around a blood and saliva born fungus that spreads throughout the human race. There are lockdowns and breakdowns and people live in fear of the fungus which takes on a life of its own within the body, though different people have different reactions. Dr Caroline Caldwell is invested in understanding why and establishing a cure or a vaccine to save humanity.

Though written five years before the Covid pandemic, the book raises thematically some of the issues we have now lived through, such as the science vs morality discussion, and the bonds of humanity and how they are stretched when under threat. The power of education and Pandora’s box are also strong themes, with the main character, Melanie, a modern day Pandora, willing to open the box and fight evil. The name Pandora means ‘the girl with all the gifts’.

And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what’s inside is good or bad. Because it’s both. Everything is always both. But you have to open it to find that out.

● I didn’t know anything about this book when I started it and I’m glad I didn’t. I would have been put off by the subject matter as it is a theme that has been done countless times before. However this author has taken that theme and ramped it up and made it into something new and exciting, the detail about the pathogen added a believable aspect to it and drew me in even more. Having a central loving parent-child relationship at its core provided a welcome security for our main character and a bit of relief from the tension. The characters were well developed and I understood each of their viewpoints even if I didn’t agree. I couldn’t put this book down and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dystopian novels. – Jo

● Would I have chosen this book off the shelf? Probably not. But I am so happy I have read it and proved to myself that I shouldn’t limit or discount genres I assume I wouldn’t enjoy. I totally surprised myself by being totally engaged and enthralled in this world of possessed humans. The novel had a brilliant mix of horror, love, sci fi, empathy and plenty of flesh eating action. The five main characters were strong and interesting and were very central to the novel’s journey from start to finish. Totally recommend this book, it’s a real page turner. – Jodie

● What could have been a re-make of many other such books took on a life of its own in The Girl With All The Gifts. The eerie setting of the secure medical facility, the innocence of the children held there and the relationships that eventuate between the five central characters gave the story personality, and the detailed scientific information about the fungus made the plot line seem possible. Perhaps having just lived through a pandemic and with news of a “super deadly fungus” spreading around the world made this fictional story all the more captivating. I couldn’t put it down, I devoured it. – Rachel

● I quickly became completely obsessed with The Girl With All The Gifts and I know I wasn’t the only one in the bookclub who became vigilant and on the lookout for possible Hungry attacks. I did not realise this book would be so completely all encompassing – one day you’re happily getting on with your life, the next day you’re wondering whether all that leftover sanitiser from the pandemic would be an effective way of masking your scent. This was an absolute page-turner and I was enthralled to the end! – Suzy


Published 2014
461 pages

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