I was trying to finish this book before the end of last year, as January is going to be a non-fiction only month for me.
I didn't make it, so this is the first book of the new year that I have finished!
I picked up this book because "by Claire North" and, let's be real, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was a fun read. This was also on NPR's recommended list, so I figured I'd read it.
While I believe I understand the message of the book (that when you put a price tag on people's lives, the system is incentivized to profit off of everything people do, to the detriment of the system), I didn't really enjoy this book. The format of past to present to past was good story-telling, I liked that aspect.
North (a pseudonym) has a number of other books, so I'll likely try another of hers. This book has good reviews from others, so maybe just me?
The man whose name was sometimes Theo Miller had been twenty-two years old when they abolished human rights. The government insisted it was necessary to counter terrorism and bring stable leadership to the country.
They wavered, avoiding each other’s gaze. Finally Theo mumbled, looking at some place a few hundred miles above and a little to the left of her forehead, “Are you …”
Love this description, "few hundred miles above."
If you’re rich enough, you get to pay less tax if you turn yourself into a company, and if you’re a company you can buy a parole.
But as the years went by, anger had faded.
Most things faded, given time.
Good rate of return that, decent interest on time spent, I respect that, I understand that, not my language but it’s my song.
[D]reams were for children and she was a grown-up now. Grown-ups just dealt with things. They carried on—that’s what being grown-up meant.
Beyond, the world carries on.
Vagrants could be Tasered on sight in this part of the city—they caused emotional distress, and emotional distress was basically assault.
By night Mala Choudhary practised Muay Thai. She won most of her fights but found those she lost more exciting.
He used to see them sometimes in the snarling boys who liked it when their dogs growled at passing strangers, because the dogs made people scared, and if people were scared of you then you were powerful, and if you were powerful, you mattered. Even if you didn’t know what mattering was good for.
The queen says this country is a slave state. That there aren’t any chains on our feet or beatings on our backs because there don’t need to be. Cos if you don’t play along with what the Company wants, you die. You die cos you can’t pay for the doctor to treat you. You die cos the police won’t come without insurance. Cos the fire brigade doesn’t cover your area, cos you can’t get a job, cos you can’t buy the food, cos the water stopped, cos there was no light at night and if that’s not slavery, if that’s not the world gone mad if that’s not … … but we got used to it. Just the way things are.
I don’t think it matters. We got taught not to care. It’ll pass. It’ll pass.
“Loneliness is a state of mind. You have to want something, to be lonely. You have to need some sort of reassurance, someone to tell you that this is who you are. I’m not lonely. I don’t want anything."
"Our lives exist in many different, contradictory states, all at once. I am a liar. I am a killer. I am honest. I am fighting for a good cause. I am burning the world. We want things simple, and safe, and when they aren’t, when the truth is something complicated, something hard, or scary, we stop. The words run out. Everything becomes …”
“It’s how it happens, of course. The worst of it. Not ‘My neighbour has been taken to be burned alive, their house stolen, their children dead and I am so, so scared to speak of it.’ Just ‘They went away. Just—away.’ And we smile. And everyone else is as scared as we are, and knows what that smile means. Is grateful that you didn’t make the terror real. Thankful that you haven’t caused a stink. Because it would hurt … someone. Someone who isn’t a stranger would get hurt, if we ever managed to speak the truth of things. If we ever had the courage to say what we really think, even if it destroyed who we want the world to think we are. Who it is we think we should be. There would be too much pain. So we say nothing. Things just … trail away into a smile, which everyone understands and doesn’t have to mean a thing. We are grateful for that silence, for the thing that can’t be expressed. To fill it would be a terrible thing.”
There was probably a bit of love left, somewhere. It simply hadn’t been a priority for either of them.
"Then I started screaming too, just screaming, and it felt good. I’d never done nothing like that before but I was crying after, I screamed and then there was nothing left and I just cried and it was the best thing it was … They don’t bother me now. They’ve got this guy, this boss bloke, he goes to the sea every morning and rages at it. Just rages at it, cos of how he was born into this shit, and he didn’t ever find no way to make his life good, and he rages at the sky cos it never helped him, and at the earth cos it never carried him somewhere else, and his raging it’s … it’s sorta good, you know? It’s like going to church, only different like. Sometimes I scream, it’s like praying, but different."
"Is she dead?” An afterthought, a thing which was probable but which the girl hadn’t wanted to ask.
The sea the sky the earth they never carried me I hate them for letting me be born for making me breathe I hate them I hate—but she gotta love ’em. If she’s your daughter you gotta find her, you gotta help her be something which isn’t … you know.
Even thin ice can puncture the hull, can sink a narrowboat. They drown as they sleep they wake the water rushing down their noses it is.
Indecision. Martyrdom. Suspension of all things, a failure to act, the need to look at things from a new perspective, a willing victim a … Neila doesn’t like the word “victim.” If you’re “willing” then how are you a “victim”? Victim is the denial of choice …
Or maybe … maybe that’s unfair. Maybe they care. But caring isn’t the same as doing something, and doing something is hard. It’s very, very hard.
Simon is a shit. I’m not saying this to excuse my son. My son is also a shit. But Simon was the shit that blocked the toilet, if you’ll pardon my saying so. Naturally he assumes he isn’t. Most people assume they aren’t shits. It’s just good business. That’s what it amounts to. Business is good. Good is business it is
I think he hits her sometimes, but she always says … when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, he always says sorry afterwards and that’s how she knows he loves her. I always thought I’d tell her to run away. It’s a very easy thing to say, much easier than anything that matters—but I never mustered the courage.
When my daughter died I spent so long trying to make it my fault, because if it was my fault it wasn’t just luck. It was the action of man, it was fate, it was God,
If you call him terrible you have to ask yourself why, you have to blame yourself and no one wants to do that. It’s the hardest thing in the world to say ‘I am a bad mother, and he is a bad father,’ it is impossible, it is devastating it is … because if I am a bad mother then I am … there is nothing worse.
And she said, “My brother had depression, he had depression and we all told him to get over it, we told him to just try and see the good side of things I mean, the good side it was just …”
“You ask people, when they tell you something terrible, you ask them ‘Are you okay?’ Of course they’re not fucking okay but what else are you meant to say. ‘Oh you must be feeling shit you must be so shit you must be …’”
The Hanged Man is the crossroads, is suspension, a choice that holds you back or will send you forward, a moment where all things stand on the edge.
Sometimes I catch myself making stories from the things that happened in my life, making stories of who I will be, and in these stories I’m always the hero or the villain because that way I made a choice, I made a choice and I chose to be here and there wasn’t ever anything which I couldn’t control, there wasn’t a part of me that is …”
“Do you regret?” she asked. “Do you look back, do you look at—when you think about the time you’ve had and the things—do you regret? Is that what you feel?” Theo thought about it. “I think I would,” he said at last. “If there wasn’t something more important to do.”
“Half the people we ask don’t even know if the queen is real, they can’t imagine it, anything changing. But the idea makes them feel better. That maybe they can do this really small thing, like this up yours to the world and maybe it’ll make a difference, maybe they count.