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Summary and book reviews of Master Class by Christina Dalcher

Master Class

by Christina Dalcher

Master Class by Christina Dalcher X
Master Class by Christina Dalcher
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  • Published:
    Apr 2020, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Mark Anthony Ayling
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the critically-acclaimed author of the international bestseller VOX comes a suspenseful new novel that examines a disturbing near future where harsh realities follow from unreachable standards.

It's impossible to know what you will do…

Every child's potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it's off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.

When your child is taken from you.

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state's elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena's perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back.

And she will do the unthinkable to make it happen.

ONE

It's impossible to know what you would do to escape a shitty marriage and give your daughters a fair shot at success. Would you pay money? Trade the comfort of house and home? Lie, cheat, or steal? I've asked myself these questions; I suppose many mothers do. One question I haven't asked, mostly because I don't like the answer. Not a bit. I have too strong a survival instinct. Always have.

Last night, I spoke to Malcolm again after the girls had gone to bed. I tried to put a light spin on things, to not turn him from phlegmatic to angry with my words.

"I've had enough of this, Malc," I said. "Freddie's had enough of it."

He looked up from his paperwork long enough to meet my eyes. "Had enough of what?"

"Of the numbers. Of the pressure. Of all of it."

"Noted," he said and buried himself again in pages of reports and memos. I think I heard a relieved sigh when I left to go to bed.

Things haven't been good here for a long time.

I almost can't remember how it felt before we all started ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The author discusses the use of numbers to judge ourselves and others. Can you think of any other numerical standards that we use today for evaluation? Do you think they are effective or do more harm?
  2. The schools and buses are all labeled as colors. Why do you think the author chose to use colors? Do you think they symbolize anything or have any meaning?
  3. Children in a household can grow up to be very different people, as evidenced by the household in Master Class. Yet the expression "blood is thicker than water" is prevalent and true in many cases. Did you feel that way when you read about each child in this household and how they evolved throughout the book?
  4. There are obvious stereotypes in the book, from the geeks in school being ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Christina Dalcher's Master Class shows America sleepwalking into a perfectionist eventuality not dissimilar to the one in Aldous Huxley's dystopian classic Brave New World. The story of Elena's journey confidently functions as both an assured dystopian thriller and a meticulously constructed socio-political cautionary tale. Fans of The Handmaid's Tale, and of dystopian fiction generally, will find much to please them in this impressive story of self-determination under pressure to conform...continued

Full Review Members Only (679 words).

(Reviewed by Mark Anthony Ayling).

Media Reviews

Booklist
Dalcher's novel reads like an expanded episode of Black Mirror; it is terrifying, haunting, and cautionary.

Kirkus Reviews
The book's examination of the way people will accept more and more small social changes until the system becomes something unrecognizable and horrific feels timely and urgent...top notch and keeps the reader guessing. An engaging parable of dangerous social change

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Dalcher combines the pace and tension of a standout thriller with thought-provoking projections of the possible end result of ranking children based on test scores. Admirers of The Handmaid’s Tale will be appropriately unsettled.

Author Blurb Michael D'Antonio, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The State Boys Rebellion
Christina Dalcher's Master Class conjures an America informed by tragic elements of its past and present where science and humanity are both abused in ways that are all-too familiar and plausible. Her heroic women and tough yet elegant prose suggest Margaret Atwood updated for this moment. Master Class will confirm your fears and affirm your hope

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Beyond the Book

The League of German Girls

Members of the BDM, 1935 The socio-political climate of Christina Dalcher's Master Class mirrors, to an extent, that of Germany during its early years under the influence of the Nazi Party. Dalcher draws overt comparisons between the educational proclivities of the Nazis and those of the book's fictional state, which seeks to establish intellectual, political and social conformity through the manipulation of young people. Early in the novel, Elena's grandmother confesses that she was once a member of the League of German Girls, the female wing of the Hitler Youth. She recounts how during this period "School became very different…Girls who used to skip the rope and play other games together began to separate." Given the marked similarities between the ...

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