My family once considered themselves Tico, but the old Hispanic tradition of community has so long ago disappeared from this continent, subsumed in the monoculture of the West, that I consider my only culture to be Quaker.
–Molly Gloss - The dazzle of day - c.1997
Dolores Negrete is leaving home, she will be boarding the Dusty Miller along with many other Quakers and leaving the planet, heading for the great unknown of space. Earth is dying. The land has, for the most part been used up, species are going extinct and people are dying of cancers and starvation and disease. The Quakers have organised themselves. They are fleeing earth and looking for a brighter future.
The main story takes place 150 years or so later, aboard the spaceship, as the potential colonists might have a habitable planet within reach. The eco-system of the ship is beginning to creak. It is still working, still functioning, but the cracks are beginning to be felt. Plagues have killed off some species, and people are beginning to feel the effects, there are suicides, as all this time in space begins to really have an impact.
I really loved the other two books by Gloss that I’ve read. Both The Hearts of Horses and Falling from Horses are wonderful wonderful stories that I would urge anyone to read. So I was really looking forward to reading The dazzle of day.
I’d still say that I love her writing. It is just so beautiful and evocative.
Unfortunately this book is more about humanity and culture and people as a whole rather than the story of an individual or even a group of characters. Gloss is exploring what it is to live in a community. What it is to be human, with all those conflicts, big and small, with all those unresolved issues that are such a part of life.
Unresolved is a great way to describe this book. We never really know what happens to any of the threads of the story. In the beginning Dolores is thinking will she or won’t she leave earth. She is in her sixties, is she too old to give up all she knows for a journey into the great unknown? Well, I sort of assumed she does board the ship, but the reader is never actually told. Likewise the characters aboard the Dusty Miller generate questions that are never answered, so much is left unresolved and unknown to the reader.
So I didn’t love this one, but at the same time I did love aspects of it. While reading it I was utterly engrossed and intrigued by the stories and characters. But then I wouldn’t feel all that inspired to pick it up, so it took me a whole week or so to get through. That manner of reading probably didn’t really help with me appreciating the story. Maybe if I read it again in bigger chunks it would work better?
I also really liked the way religion was depicted in the book. Any one who knows me knows that I am not a religious person. I don’t really believe in the whole “god” thing. But I loved the way god was an integral part of the Quaker culture, while at the same time some of them seemed to be agnostic at least and possibly atheist. I also loved the community meetings. I’m not sure I’d enjoy such outside interference in my life, the “divorce” discussions were a tad intrusive, even if they did serve to clear the air, but the meetings where anyone could say whatever was in their head and be listened to. That idea is just great. Although, of course it only works with small communities. Can’t imagine it working in a big city.
It is a beautiful story, and if you enjoy Gloss’s writing I’d recommend this. If you enjoy books for their writing rather than their plot and character then, again, I’d really recommend this. But I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.