Review: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

David Strorm’s father doesn’t approve of Angus Morton’s unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realise that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands.

I read The Chrysalids by John Wyndham for my book club last month and I still don’t know if I like it. It’s one of those books where the synopsis sounds intriguing, but I put off reading it. That might be because the only other Wyndham novel I read was The Day of The Triffids back in high school and like most high school books it bored me to distraction.

I won’t say it’s brilliant or riveting, but there is something about this book that kept me reading besides the book club. Perhaps it’s Wyndham’s subtle way of writing which lets you in on the story, but not so much that it’s completely clear. Perhaps it’s the tantalising mystery unfolding of how the world became that way or what lies outside the town of Waknuk (where the story took place). Whatever it was I was able to keep reading and was engaged enough to enjoy it to a degree.

There’s plenty going on in The Chrysalids when it comes to morals and ethics. Like a lot of classic literature there is a message and it has been thought out beforehand. So too with The Chrysalids and that wherein lies the problem. Majority of classic literature or literature to begin with is intended to convey a message, not to be pure escapism, but hopefully you don’t consider that when you’re reading. What I found with The Chrysalids is that, even though it has a message which is conveyed quite well, the story is very much contrived to deliver that message and it was something I was constantly reminded of during the whole novel.

Yes it is a novel that can make you think and yes it is somewhat disturbing in it’s portrayal of human nature, but I find it hard to really appreciate a novel when it feels so contrived. A story can be told with a message (and usually they are anyway), but the point of sharing the message via storytelling is to draw the reader in so they are emotionally invested and therefore the message can take root more.

All in all The Chrysalids is a story to read for what it conveys and for how it gets you thinking, but at the same time I did not become emotionally invested in the story, nor did it leave me with any resolutions. It’s one of those books that leaves more to be desired upon completion then it does when you first begin.

  • Demographic: Adult, but suitable for young adults as well. This is very schoolbook-ish though.
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
  • Reminds Me Of: It’s odd, but nothing springs to mind except The Day of The Triffids
  • Rating Out of Five: 3
  • Challenges: N/A – Book Club read

2 thoughts on “Review: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

  1. I have a completely different reaction in my reading of Chrysalids. I find it amazingly grasping : the experiences and adventures of David. Reading as a science fiction at its face value it is entertaining and exciting. I enjoy it more for the issues Wyndham discusses : religion fundamentalism, bigotry and conservatism, which still exist today. It leaves me with a sad realisatiion that the future of us, the human race is bleak.

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  2. I feel that your opinion was swayed allot for the fact that you read a book by this author in high school and found it boring, sometimes it is hard to get into a book when all you think is “its going to get boring here, oh now its going to get preachy.”
    I respect your opinion but i ask you to go back and reread and keep your mind open, i found the book entertaining, although a little short. i found the view of the novel to be realistic, as the father to David and the zealand or “sealand” woman, it shows realistically that when the worst happens(nuclear disaster) the best (Davids reaction towards Sophie’s toes) and the worst can come out of otherwise average people. it also seemed that there was allot of reference to today’s conformity and that it is okay to be different and to “show your voice” (their mind-reading) and that the deformed aren’t really deformed, there “deformities” are what make them, them.

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