Voices, Ursula K Le Guin, Harcourt Inc, 2006, 341 pp
THE SUNDAY FAMILY READ
This is the second volume of Le Guin's young adult series, the Annals of the Western Shore trilogy. I read Gifts some years ago and found it as great as any other books of hers I have read.
If possible, I liked Voices even more. Memer of Ansul is an orphan raised in one of the best homes of the city. She lost her mother at birth and is a half-breed resulting from the rape of her mother when a brutal and superstitious race conquered Ansul.
The conquerors fear the written word like some people fear the devil. By means of torture and fire, they found and destroyed all the books in Ansul, or so they thought. Memer finds the hidden library in her home and is taught to read by the master of the house. Being strong willed and a survivor, she becomes involved in an attempt to free Ansul from it occupiers.
Besides the theme of a literate people being oppressed by illiterate, religiously fanatic barbarians, the story includes a beautiful testament to the connection between education, love of learning, and peace. The people of Ansul have resolved their difficulties for centuries through dialogue, not violence. Women are respected, the natural world is held in reverance, and many gods are worshiped as spiritual presences who aid mankind.
Having been different all her life, Memer is open to new ideas and approaches life with an inherent bravery. In other words, she is a heroine and her coming of age coincides with the freeing of Ansul.
Le Guin never preaches or talks down to her readers, adults or teens. Voices was exciting, thought provoking, and worked on me like a blessing from some kick-butt goddesses.
(Voices is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)