The Olive Readers – Christine Aziz

This book was winner of the Richard & Judy ‘How To Get Published’ competition. And yes, I’ll admit, that’s why I bought it. If I recall rightly (it was some time ago), Richard and Judy had both read the book and raved about it. It sounded pretty different to the usual kind of thing I read, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I’m very glad I did. It is, most definitely, different to anything else I’ve read. It’s very difficult to place in a genre I feel, it’s kind of sci-fi, as it’s set in the future, but it’s also intermingled with romance and family relationships, so I suppose it’s cross-genre. I found it incredibly easy to get into, as it was very mysterious to begin with, and I found myself asking in my head ‘Who, what, why?’ etc, so I was racing through trying to find answers to all of these questions.

The Olive Readers is set in the future, but one without a past. The people who live in this future world, know nothing of their past, everything has been erased and taken from them; books banned, older generations forbidden to speak of times past. The world they live in has been almost destroyed by climate change, and the Companies have taken over, making everyone a slave to them. They must work and everything goes to the particular Company they work for, and is distributed amongst other Companies.

Jephzat comes from the Olive Country. She loves her home and family. When war strikes, Jephzat dispairs as her sister is caught sleeping with the soldiers which have come to live in their home. She and the villagers view this to be treacherous, as the soldiers are those of the ultimate enemy. They come from the neighbouring Water Country – the main controllers of the world, as they hold the key to life – they are the only ones who know how to produce potable water.

After her sister’s disappearance, Jephzat’s parents are taken away by the Company, leaving her alone in the house, except for their faithful servant, Manos. The villagers blame Jephzat and her family for the disruption to their lives, and hate them for harbouring the soldiers in their home. She is nearly set upon, but Homer, another of the villagers, defends her. For once, a long time ago, she and her sister found a room in their vast house which was full of olives that had been hidden for illegal sale. Hephzibah is all for telling their father, but Jephzat denies all knowledge of this room, stalls their father, and by the time they are compelled by Hephzibah to go and have a look, the room is empty. It appears Homer has never forgotten this favour.

The villagers start to warm to her, but none more than Homer, who has taken up almost permanent residence in her home, and eventually, her heart. They become lovers, and Homer starts to reveal secrets to her that are more exciting and forbidden that she could have ever imagined. She is offered the opportunity to become an Olive Reader – a group of people intent on overthrowing the Company and restoring normal lives, and giving the population their histories back – Jephzat is reluctant at first, but when she realises the importance, and the threat that hangs over the Olive Country, she is spurred into action, and into the heart of a secret and incredibly dangerous plan.

Will Jephzat succeed in helping the Readers restore order to the world? I couldn’t stop reading until I found out, and neither will you.

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