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The Glimpse by Claire Merle

The Glimpse

by Claire Merle

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Dangerous. This book is dangerous and disappointing. I can't tell you about the fury I felt at the very beginning of this book. The propaganda, myths and downright lies regarding the science of mental illness that only serve to misinform and hurt the vulnerable, those who live with these illnesses and their family and friends which is a good percentage of the population. Most will be affected by it at some point in their lives. And at this point you should know that my family has been touched by it and I've worked with people from the UK mental health charity, Mind.

In the Nature Vs. Nurture debate, on a scale, mental illness is overwhelmingly more about nurture and environment than genetics. If a group of people, like a family, are subjected to the same stressful environment then they're more likely to develop problems than one living a stress-free life. That has been proven.

The Glimpse's Big 3: schizophrenia, depression and anxiety - Most will personally experience a period of the latter two. Life is hard, that's a fact. You can't just permanently label someone as one of the Crazies for what could be an episode lasting only a few months and then going on to suffer no further problems. It doesn't work like that. Telling someone they're crazy could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy where they live up to their label and if one hadn't been issued in the first place that person may be otherwise perfectly healthy. The book picks up on this to some extent but it would depend on the perceptiveness of the reader to fully understand the ramifications.

Suffering a mental illness does not automatically mean you're a lost cause. A great many are functional members of society with the help of appropriate treatment and support but here the treatment is horrifying and only hinders and hurts the recipients and could put people off from seeking help themselves. The book states that 40% of the population is Active or "Crazy", a Sleeper (guaranteed to become Active) or a Carrier of the faulty genes responsible. No Pures ever become Crazy. In reality, there are no absolutes.

This is the world Ana has grown up in. To fear the Crazies outside of the walls of her Community of Pures until she's outed as a Sleeper and enters the filthy, neglected and chaotic City (London) and observes the truth for herself. It's only much, much later that she discovers the possibility the Crazy-Pure dynamic is a lie used as a form of social control which just so happens to benefit the evil profit-hungry pharmaceutical companies forcing drugs on healthy individuals and leaving them to self-destruct from the resulting side-effects. But there is far too much doubt regarding the validity of this conspiracy, and comes too little too late for disgusted, insulted and vulnerable readers who may have abandoned the book by now.

The problem is the propaganda spouted by the Pures is too eerily reminiscent of the way society judges mental illness today; with ignorance and contempt for the perceived weakness and potential danger they could pose to others and a need to ignore, dismiss and hide the sufferers away. Anything to distance themselves from the "afflicted". In effect, this book confuses the educational messages mental health charities try to instill in the public by reinforcing the negative and unhelpful perceptions of mental illness in a time of (hopefully lessening) ignorance on the subject. And that's something I can't ignore because this book is being marketed to an impressionable section of society: teenagers -tomorrow's adults. How will they treat this subject after reading The Glimpse?

My anger stayed with me throughout the book but it didn't stop me from acknowledging the vividly realistic future England of the year 2041, the state of global politics and the effects of our Global Depression, the Petrol Wars and the very different transport system, the housing crisis worsened by high repossession rates, the use of cash is outlawed -credit transactions only (big brother), the bankers earning their pitchforks along with their horns, having a personal online presence is mandatory e.g. blogs, the dismantling of the United Kingdom -becoming independent countries once again, the media monopolizing power of the BBC, and the downfall of the music industry and Tesco, etc. It's jam-packed with genius world-building tidbits.

Seventeen-year-old Ana's toxic relationship with her father also had a ring of truth to it. As a character, Ana had formidable strength in the face of an illogical, nay farcical, situation she finds herself in of being the only sane person regularly put under the microscope by none too sane so-called professionals (many of whom enjoy torturing their "patients" and who see everything as a sign of mental illness), unaware of the very pressure they're putting her under would crack the average person faster than you could blink. She's been forced to rein in all emotion, remain composed at all times and conditioned to respond in a calculated manner during all mental health assessments and public appearances for fear of being judged "Active".

Religious people may also get upset with this book as it labels religious belief as a form of psychosis and in this future all religion is illegal because of it's ability to destroy 'every culture that ever existed.' Although there's a hint of the paranormal in the form of Enlightenment Glimpse -the ability to see a short vision, glimpse, of the future used by the only remaining religious organisation which is viewed as a strict brainwashing cult by the Pures.

The love triangle wasn't painful and appears to be resolved in this book. Both men, Jasper and Cole, are older by up to 6 years. For once, I approve of Ana's pick. The ending leaves things open for the sequel (which should resolve everything as Merle has a two-book deal) but it doesn't leave you hanging off a cliff.

Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive due to my personal connection with mental illness. Besides, dystopian fiction takes the negative aspects of society and exaggerates them to the extreme and usually acts as some sort of lesson against behaving in a certain manner. So maybe I have nothing to worry about and have no need to be upset, but then this is just my opinion.

Some may ask me why I read this book after reading the synopsis and knowing what to expect. A synopsis doesn't tell you everything. I have a keen interest in psychology (especially in fiction) and in truth, I assumed some disease had changed human genes somehow and the result altered the nature and development of mental illness. In any case, I'm glad I overcame strong emotions to read the whole book.

WARNING: contains violence, physical and psychological abuse, some gore, and rape.

***My thanks to Faber & Faber and Netgalley for the ARC in return for an honest review.*** ( )
  Cynical_Ames | Sep 23, 2014 |
I haven't read all of this. I've read about the concept, and I tried to read it, and I tried to hang on for the promise at the end that "she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe". But I couldn't. I'm going to guess I'm going to be called too sensitive and so on, and told that it's just fiction, but whatever. I'm in the "Big 3", the supposedly horrific mental illnesses, twice. Anxiety and depression. (Ranked with schizophrenia?) That doesn't make me not a normal person, and it's certainly not in my genes. "Craziness" isn't a life sentence, nothing about it is inevitable -- you get the gist. Whatever the intent of the author, this just reinforces a ton of harmful stereotypes about us Crazies.

This may have turned out to completely echo my sentiments, I don't know, but judging from the other reviews, it didn't. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Originally reviewed here.

Unsurprisingly, I was really looking forward to The Glimpse, because of that magic word dystopia, and because I seriously love the cover. It's both simple and fantastic, even if it does seem much more suited to the plot line of Delirium. My hopes definitely went down as I saw some reviews rolling into the blogosphere. None of the reviews I saw were overly positive, and I was pretty bummed. Still, I determined to read it myself, because I do try to read all of the dystopias.

Anyway, I actually liked The Glimpse, although I can see why it might have given other readers some trouble. What pulled me through the book was definitely the concept, which was something pretty new to me on the dystopian front, always a plus. In this future, the world has been divided up into the haves and the have-nots, only the dividing line is not race or wealth or attractiveness: it's sanity.

Society is divided up into Pures, those without any genetic markers indicating a disorder (ex. depression, bipolar, ADHD, etc.) and Crazies. The Pures live within beautiful communities and have pretty much everything they need. Their society isn't much different from ours, although they now get married through an antiquated process called Joining.

I found the whole division based on mental stability entirely fascinating. Imaginging society spazzing out about the ever-increasing number of people suffering from some sort of mental disorder is not really a stretch at all. That could definitely be something that a despotic government might want to control. Basically, this could be a way of helping Darwinism along by trying to get the healthiest people to stick together and procreate.

Though I really liked that, the characters never really felt real to me at all. I wasn't especially invested in them. I wanted to know what happened, but I didn't particularly care whether the main couple made it work or if they won out against the bad guys. They weren't terrible characters. Really, on paper, I should have liked Ana, but...meh. Whereas in a lot of books, the dialog is what makes the book move along for me, in this one it was definitely the longer paragraphs of description here.

Perhaps what distanced me from the characters was due to some weakness in the plotting. I often felt like the characters, mostly Ana, made completely illogical decisions. Not in a real life, people do stupid things kind of way, but in a wtf just happened kind of way. Ana would think things over and decide that the obvious choice in some situation was X, and I would be sitting there going, "Why would you ever do that in response to this situation? FACEPALM."

To sum up, the world building was really cool, but I thought everything else could use some more work. Despite thebook's limitations, I do think I will probably be reading the sequel. This one definitely isn't for everyone, but, if you like the premise, you may want to give it a go. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
Source: e-ARC from NetGalley.

In the world of the Glimpse, every British citizen is genetically tested, and anyone with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, depression or anxiety is forced to live as a so-called "Crazy" in overcrowded central London, or, if they're truly mentally ill, in a "Loony Bin." Citizens who don't exhibit any genetic tendency for any of those conditions are considered "Pure" and are cloistered, forced to "bind" and "join" to each other, i.e. reproduce and have "Pure" children.

The Glimpse seems to be, in part, a kind of what-if based on the Human Genome project, a real-life 2003 endeavor that mapped the human genome. I do think the topic of genetic information and how it could be used against us is a fascinating one. But I'm not sure that the political system described in the book made any sense, even in a dystopic society.

[Total random aside: given the fact that the book takes place only a few decades in the future, I also wondered about the royal family. As Princess Diana publicly battled depression, her children would presumably be labeled "Carriers" in the world of this story. I got all distracted picturing William and Harry and their children cast out of the palace as "Crazies."]

Ana, the main character, is the daughter of the geneticist who designed the "Crazy" test. Thus, he is able to fake Ana's test results and pretend she's "Pure" even though her mother was depressed and committed suicide. Ana is supposed to be bound to Jasper, the son of the CEO of a Big Pharma company. Binding to him is her last chance to lead a "Pure" life rather than a "Crazy" one. But Jasper disappears, and Ana becomes involved with Cole, a resistance fighter.

Ana was a mass of contradictions. I'm all for books where the main character starts out shy or uncertain and then grows strong and confident. Ana sort of veers between the two. One minute, she's a sheltered Pure, watching the "Crazies" out of the window of her chauffeured car. Then, she's sneaking into the "Crazy" part of the city, where she's like a Navy SEAL as she dives to the bottom of a murky river and rescues a suicidal child. Next, she's successfully impersonating a lawyer in court. After that, she literally passes out like a wilting Victorian maiden upon receiving some shocking news.

Jasper isn't in the book enough to give the love triangle much viability; I don't feel I really got to know him as a character. Cole has shamanistic powers that I didn't quite understand and which didn't seemed to have much to do with the plot, except to tell him that he should be in love with Ana.

I thought some of the ideas in this book definitely had the potential to be interesting and thought-provoking. If you're a die-hard fan of the dystopian genre, give The Glimpse a try -- and let me know what you thought!
  JenRyland | Mar 30, 2013 |
This review was originally posted at Tea, Daydreams & Fairytales on 24th August 2012.

Actual Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

This is the story of Ana who lives in the not to distant future where scientists and governments test for mental illnesses from birth and then segragates society into the "pures" who live in idyllic gated communities and the "crazies" everyone else who has predictors for mental illness, ranging from mild illnesses to the big three - depression, schizophrenia and anxiety. As you can quite safely assume the majority of the population is viewed as unpure and so are left to their own devices in major cities with the worst citizens locked up in various mental institutions that have opened up to "assist" these individuals.

Ana is born a pure with her father being the scientist who created the test to establish what mental illnesses a person has from birth. During her teenage years it is discovered that Ana's tests were done incorrectly and she does infact test positive for the big 3 meaning that she is outcast within her society and the government continually tests her to make sure that her mental health is stable. Providing she marries Jasper her childhood crush before her 18th birthday she is allowed to stay in the Pure community otherwise she has to go to the city to live. Shortly before her birthday Jasper dissapears leading her to investigate and uncover some very hard truths about the world which she has grown up in.

Let me just start off by staying what a fantastic and completely scary dystopian novel! I had read a few negative reviews about this book prior to requesting it via Netgalley - many were very offended about the authors take and description of mental illness. This outcry made me curious and I can safely say that while I have had experience with major depression (not personally, my mum suffered from it for most of my life) I didn't take offense at any point during the novel and infact I thought that it was a smart way to bring up real life issues to teens and young adults. I think what I love about the Dystopia genre so much is the ability to see where different avenues life, governments and politics can take you and explore safely how this could affect humanity - by safe I mean it's fairly clear to the reader that this isn't going to happen in their lifetime so it's a purely theoretical exercise of the imagination.

Ana's story starts off a bit slowly and I have to admit that I didn't really get into either her or the actual plot of the book until I was about a quarter of the way through. Once I got over that speed bump though boy was this a thrilling ride. The plots are actually quite complex yet really well managed for a book that isn't that long clocking in at just 432 pages. Aside from the standard dystopian ideas of controlling governments and conspiracies there is the extra thought provoking topics of mental illness and spirituality added in for the reader to mull over. I really enjoyed the actual theory of "the glimpse" as well and will be interested to see if there are more of these in the final book.

The characters are fairly stock standard however in saying that they are well rounded and I still enjoyed reading about them. By the end of the novel Ana really shows some backbone and I really enjoyed the layers and complexity of the relationship she has with her father in this novel. Jasper was probably the weakest link and I felt that some of his backstory was probably cut and edited out as not relevant which is a pity because I really felt that there was more to him than what the book gives him credit for. Cole was a fantastic character and love interest, I loved him he was so patient and kind even though he had been through such a hellish life.

There are some really confronting scenarios placed in this novel including suicidal toddlers and criminal abuse and negligence of mental patients. I found this very chilling and sometimes a little full on though it completely worked and added substance to this novel and was in context with the world building beautifully crafted by Merle. I think that this is a wonderful read for anyone who is willing to see this purely as a work of fiction or a theoretical exercise into the "what ifs" of a potential future. Perhaps give this one a miss if mental illness is a button pusher for you!

Thank you Netgalley and Faber and Faber for providing me with a copy of this novel for review. ( )
  dreamydryad | Aug 23, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571280536, Paperback)

Throughout England people are now divided into Pures and Crazies according to the results of a DNA test, with the Pures living in small Communities cut off from the madness of society, and the Crazies living outside the walls in the squalor and mayhem of the City. Until the age of fifteen, Ana has lived a privileged existence amongst the Pures, but her whole world crumbles when she finds out that there was a mistake with her Pure test. She is actually one of the Crazies, and one day in the near or distant future she will become sick. But Ana has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell. Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana's defects, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a conditional reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana's joining ceremony looms closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a 'normal' life. But then Jasper disappears. Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not interfere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society and into the pits of the human soul. And as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper's abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe, but she also learns to love as she has never loved before.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:28 -0400)

Throughout England people are now divided into Pures and Crazies according to the results of a DNA test, with the Pures living in small Communities cut off from the madness of society, and the Crazies living outside the walls in the squalor and mayhem of the City. Until the age of fifteen, Ana has lived a privileged existence amongst the Pures, but her whole world crumbles when she finds out that there was a mistake with her Pure test. She is actually one of the Crazies, and one day in the near or distant future she will become sick. But Ana has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell.… (more)

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