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The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

The Unit (2006)

by Ninni Holmqvist

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8629916,538 (3.75)1 / 80
  'I liked The Unit very much... I know you will be riveted, as I was.' Margaret Atwood 'Echoing work by Marge Piercy and Margaret Atwood, The Unit is as thought-provoking as it is compulsively readable.' Jessica Crispin, NPR.org  Ninni Holmqvist's eerie dystopian novel envisions a society in the not-so-distant future where men and women deemed economically worthless are sent to a retirement community called the Unit. With lavish apartments set amongst beautiful gardens and state-of-the-art facilities, elaborate gourmet meals, and wonderful music and art, they are free of financial worries and want for nothing. It's an idyllic place, but there's a catch: the residents - known as dispensables - must donate their organs, one by one, until the final donation. When Dorrit Weger arrives at the Unit, she resigns herself to this fate, seeking only peace in her final days. But she soon falls in love, and this unexpected, improbable happiness throws the future into doubt.   Clinical and haunting, The Unit is a modern-day classic and a spine-chilling cautionary tale about the value of human life.… (more)
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    trav: It's a totally different tone and voice, but the theme and subject matter seem to do well within the same discussions.
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English (97)  Swedish (4)  German (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
In a world that worships youth, children and productivity, this book is on target. The subject matter is different from Never Let Me Go - The only similarity is that humans are used for parts. As an over-fifty woman with no children and great love for my pets, I identified heavily with Dorrit. She expressed many things that I've felt about society and my role in it. We women over 50 become invisible unless we yell and scream. But when we yell and scream, we're told that it is inappropriate and desperate. Our lack of youth and lack of children invalidates us and breaks our will.

It's unsurprising that I found myself sobbing many times during the story. Heck, I'm crying now. ( )
  authenticjoy | Mar 29, 2019 |
I do not know what I expected from this book, but it is certainly a wringer. The society is depicted in full and the narrator's unapologetic pre-feminist longings are refreshing if a little absurd. The book certainly struck a chord in me about the question of the value of individual human lives.

'The Unit' is sad, sometimes funny, but mostly - frightening. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Review originally published on my blog, Musings of a Bookish Kitty:

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, translated by Marlaine Delargy
Other Press, 2009
Fiction; 268 pgs
Source: Postal Mail Group (Borrowed)

As Holmqvist describes it in her novel, The Unit, it started as a debate by a new political party that wasn't taken too seriously. Overtime, however, the idea grew, taking on new forms and growing in popularity. Soon, it became a way of life. Men over sixty and women over fifty who were single, childless, and without jobs valued by society as contributing to the greater good are now considered dispensable and forced to give their bodies up for science. Sequestered in one location, they seemingly live out their final years in comfort--their every need met. There is a beautiful garden right out of a Monet painting, walkways, and shops, restaurants, and a theater. It's an indoor heaven, of sorts. Or so they want you to believe. Their every move and word is monitored. The dispensable people's purpose now is to take part in various psychological and scientific studies--and donate organs as needed.

Set in a Dystopian Sweden, The Unit asks the question what, if any, is the value of life? Who decides? Dorrit Weger has just turned 50, and reluctantly settles into life on the unit. As the novel progresses, she reflects on her life and what has led her to her this place. Growing up, she was taught to be self-reliant and to go after her dreams. She chose to write, and lived sparsely but comfortably with her beloved dog Jock. It was easy to identify with Dorrit and understand why she made the life choices she did. How was she to know the political winds would change so drastically over the course of her lifetime, earning her the label of a dispensable person? It is not something she agrees with, but has little choice other than to accept it.

Holmqvist does a great job of capturing the range of emotions and thoughts Dorrit goes through over the course of the novel. She is angry and sad, resigned, and scared. There are also moments of happiness and hope. We see the connections Dorrit makes with her friends who are in the same situations, and we go through the grief process as we have to say goodbye when they make their "final donations." The people who run the unit try to make the process as humane as possible, and yet, there is nothing humane about it. It's disturbing how easily accepted all of this is. And yet, is it all that surprising? I thought it was very telling when Dorrit is told she can know the person who is receiving organs, but the person receiving them is not told anything about the donor. Do this to save an important person's life! But obviously the donor isn't important enough to be recognized. It's a form of manipulation, to make it easier for those dispensables who have to give up their lives. There's something terribly wrong with that, as if the situation wasn't terrible enough as it was.

The Unit is more of a quiet book without any big plot twists or major climatic moments. However, it is very thought provoking. Dorrit's story is a compelling one that was hard to put down. I wanted so much for life to be different for the people deemed dispensable. I had never heard of this book before it arrived in the mail as one of my postal mail book group reads. I am glad it came my way. ( )
  LiteraryFeline | Nov 25, 2017 |
On my 2d reading of this book, and it is very powerful. Organ donation and harvesting a significant themes here, and not sure where I stand. Some of the experiments are rather cruel in this book, like the one where dude's brain shrinks into mush. China allegedly has a thriving market for forced organ donation, but I haven't done a lot of research on that. Stands to reason that they have a surplus of people, and the poor are unfortunately playthings for the rich.

Also the concept of your value to society makes you expendable when you reach 50 or 60 yrs of age. I do see some truth to that, but more in the realm if you aren't working a meaningful job and are a medical or financial liability to society.

There are some heavy concepts in this book.The issue of the value of children, and people will kidnap babies to call their own. 24 hr surveillance also ( )
  delta351 | Sep 6, 2017 |
Another in the recent run of dystopian novels, this one published first more than ten years ago in Swedish and now reissued. I don't think it'll spoil it to give the basic premise: unmarried and childless women over fifty and men over sixty are transferred to a "Unit," where they are housed in lavish comfort, monitored constantly, and required to periodically donate their organs. This novel begins with the arrival of Dorrit Weger at the Unit, and, as you'd expect, things don't go according to plan. ( )
  JBD1 | Jul 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
Holmqvist's spare prose interweaves the Unit's pleasures and cruelties with exquisite matter-of-factness, so that readers actually begin to wonder: On balance, is life better as a pampered lab bunny or as a lonely indigent? But then she turns the screw, presenting a set of events so miraculous and abominable that they literally made me gasp.

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ninni Holmqvistprimary authorall editionscalculated
Delargy, MarlaineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was more comfortable than I could have imagined.
People who read books tend to be dispensable.  Extremely.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty–single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries–are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?
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