The Seclusion serves as a strong debut for author Jacqui Castle. Set in a dystopian future in the year 2090, everything Castle writes about feels relevant to current times and goes to show how important it is for democracy to continue existing.
I was provided a free copy of The Seclusion for review. The opinions are my own. Minors spoilers. You have been warned!
The story is told from the perspective of a young woman named Patricia, or Patch. She grew up in an America which has walled itself away from the rest of the world. The government, or ‘The Board’ (made of unelected officials), controls everything. Patch doesn’t even know the meaning of democracy or free speech. Kids are taken away from their parents at the age of five and are conditioned by The Board to live by certain rules. It is all about being patriotic. Even the slightest hint of deviation from the norm can have one sent to prison. Individuals are given food, education, and protection. In return, they must remain loyal to The Board and the twisted version of America they live in.
Patch considers herself a good citizen and focuses on her work (testing soil samples for toxicity). However, things change when she and her friend Rexx find an old abandoned van. Inside the van Patch finds things from the past she doesn’t understand. The Board keeps all historical information before the construction of the wall away from the public. But the things Patch finds make her question her entire identity. From here The Seclusion becomes a story about Patch and Rexx running away from The Board and trying to find the truth about the America they are in and the people controlling every citizen.
Through her story, Castle is able to write about many important issues. She talks about freedom of speech, one’s search for facts, democracy, and more. Even today, many take their freedom for granted and don’t think voting is vital. But it is. Continuing to vote and fighting for what you believe in is crucial because living in a similar country as depicted in The Seclusion can become a grim possibility.
Castle’s voice is also engaging. She has done an impressive job of showing how Patch’s thought patterns change before and after knowing the lies she has been fed throughout her life. Certain writers can’t handle constructing a narrative from a character’s POV, but Castle has done a good job. I liked reading about what Patch saw, heard, felt, and thought.
Castle also takes the much-needed time for worldbuilding. Such a story requires details. You get to know about the surveillance system keeping an eye on everybody, the type of work Patch is required to do, how others around her act and go about their lives. All of the details make you feel more engrossed in what Patch is going through instead of thinking there are too many unnecessary words on the pages.
If I were to critique a few things, I would say I didn’t like the romance between Patch and Rexx. Even if the two didn’t end up becoming romantically involved as the story continued, I think we could have still understood how important their bond was with each other. Maybe Castle (like many authors) would like to see her novel made into a film or a TV show and that’s why she decided to add some romance? The Seclusion can work well in a live-action adaptation. I just didn’t like Rexx and Patch as a couple.
Also, considering how The Board has been controlling Americans, I found the absence of religion and racism a bit weird. I don’t think the members of The Board were shown to be racially, religiously or sexually diverse. So, people not being discriminated on the basis of these things didn’t gel well, in my opinion, with the rest of America built by Castle in this book.
Furthermore, I do think the final chapters of were a bit too rushed.
Having said that, I still highly recommend The Seclusion.
I give it 4.5/5 stars, and I hope we get to see Patch’s journey continue.
The Seclusion is currently available from wherever books are sold.
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Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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