Book Review of The Chrysalids The future society depicted in "The Chrysalids" is still suffering the
after-effects of a disaster sent by God, which all but destroyed the
ancient world of the Old People. The survivors called the disaster
Tribulation. No one knows why it happened, but the narrator, David,
attributes it to "a phase of irreligious arrogance", which God, in his
anger, punished. Only a few legends of the Old People remain.
Centuries (millenia?) have passed, and the descendents of the Old
People continue to pick up the pieces.
"The Chrysalids" is a book that deals with the issue of normality.
Basically, to be considered normal you have to be in the majority. In
the world David describes anything "not right" is deemed an "Offence"
or a "Blasphemy". Mutants are seen as the spawn of the devil and must
be destroyed to preserve the true image. (Throughout history people
have always needed someone to persecute for the world's ills.)
The reader will probably have guessed that this is a world after a
nuclear holocaust. But we don't actually know for sure. Other
reviewers have criticised the scientific validity of radiation and its
effects. For all we know it could have been a weapon even more
powerful than an H-bomb that caused Tribulation. (Who knows what
scientific marvels the 21st century will bring? No one imagined
nuclear weapons at the start of the 20th.)
I like the way the book has a go at the self-righteousness of
religion. How much cruelty and suffering has been inflicted on
innocent people in the name of religion? The way mutants are treated
in "The Chrysalids" is reminiscent of the witch hunts in 18th century
Europe. As a matter of fact, the future described in this book
resembles the 18th century. There is no technology and David describes
the world as someone in the 18th century would see it, hence the
formal language, unused by people today.
What most impressed me was the author's ability to set up atmosphere
in the novel. I still to this day, after years between readings
remember images I formed while reading the novel. Grass between the
toes, the nuclear wastes, the way the children formed telepathic
One thing that I remember clearly is how the novel was like a breath
of fresh air, clean and smooth. There are no frilly edges and there is
no attempt by the author to make the book flashy. This makes the book
pure and adds to the impact of the story.
As an overview, there are a group of children who are living in
Eastern Canada after some type of holocaust (this is never much of a
point in the book... no one has memories of it). Their society is
strongly anti-mutant with a very strict set of rules as to what is
"normal" and what isn't. All of this children are...