Residing in an undeniably idyllic country such as Australia, with a beautifully free democracy, it seems deeply perturbing and outrageous that historically there have existed – and indeed still exist in the world – societies where fundamental human rights are deeply fractured and exploited.
Such an expediently corrupt and sombrely downtrodden society exists in a futuristic United Kingdom in the dystopian novel, “The Hush”, by Australian author Sara Foster.
The novel predominantly takes place in the town of Whitehaven in England where our two protagonists, mother, Emma, and seventeen year old daughter, Lainey reside. Emma works as a caring, methodical midwife at the local hospital, while Lainey attends the local high school (there are no other siblings, and Lainey’s dad is ‘out of the picture’).
In this terrifying, yet believable society, human liberties are mercilessly restricted by the government, and dark and sinister forces are at play; this darkness in the residents’ lives is reflected by a threatening atmosphere of grey skies and drizzling rain consistently in the novel.
In this book, recent months in the United Kingdom have seen an alarming number of stillbirths, and Emma is involved in delivering many of these devastatingly ‘peaceful’ babies at the Whitehaven Hospital. Medical staff are at a despondent loss at to why so many babies are being born dead, whilst looking ‘perfect’.
Additionally, citizens are being ‘forced’ by the government to wear watches, so that the government knows where everyone is at all times. As if these measures from the government, led by Prime Minister Mary Walcott, and the horrifying number of stillbirths occurring isn’t enough, many pregnant teenage girls -and frequently their parents – are going missing. The fact that pregnant teenage girls are disappearing propels Emma and Lainey into a nightmarish apocalyptic scenario when Lainey finds that she is pregnant.
When the Prime Minister is assassinated while giving a press conference one night on the steps of the “National Birth Control Centre”, we are left to ponder if there is a “conspiracy”. As feminist icon Geraldine Fox (Emma’s mother) expresses to Emma of the assassination, “it could be big. The question is what was she about to say, and who doesn’t want us to know?”
When a secretive ‘new’ government takes over, citizens find themselves even further regimented and under surveillance. And when Lainey inevitably, but sickeningly goes missing, Emma’s world is torn apart. Can Emma, Geraldine and Emma’s friend, human rights lawyer Meena, locate Lainey and the other missing pregnant teenage girls before it is too late? Additionally, can these fierce advocates for Lainey discover what the authorities are attempting to ‘cover up’ and hide.
“The Hush” had me turning it’s pages faster and faster as I progressed in my reading of the novel. We, as readers, become deeply attached to Emma and Lainey. Themes of mother/daughter bonds, government control and a society on the brink of existence resonate in this superb novel. I highly recommend it for those who want to be transported to a future time full of nightmares, yet engulfed in hope.