Review: Elysium

Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #25 for 2016
PopSugar Challenge Category:
– A science fiction novel
Read Harder Task:
– Read the first book in a series by a person of color

I’ll confess, I wasn’t very interested in this book at first because it seemed like it was just about some domestic drama with some gender-swapping tossed in for no good reason. But then I got to the Vestal virgins bit. Maybe it was having just spent a few weeks in Athens and getting a bit of a crash course in the Classics there, but this piqued my interest and made me start looking more closely at the Greco-Roman history and mythology and symbolism so that I could make some sense of the recurring motifs, which deal with loss, grief, and memorial. (If you don’t mind ever-so-mildly spoilering these for yourself, you can flip to the history lesson in the back, right before the Acknowledgments page.)

Even with the clef to the roman, this book was not easy reading. Characters change genders, names, and relationships in every chapter, so there is very little for the reader to hold on to. Or so it seems. But Brissett has brilliantly structured this tale of alien invasion and post-apocalyptic dystopia as a kaleidoscope of emotional anguish that amazingly resolves into a coherent mosaic of a story. I don’t know how she did it. At one point I posted this Facebook status: “I think I am too stupid to read this book.” It truly felt that way, but I took a friend’s advice and just went with the flow of the narrative. And it worked!

It’s still not the most accessible of books, so I would advise engaging in some deep discussions with other readers, but it is so worth it! I am keeping this one around for a re-read. I know I currently have only the most superficial understanding of this story and I look forward to digging deeper.

View all my reviews


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