[Book Review] The Core of the Sun

The Core of the Sun / Johanna Sinisalo

The Core of the Sun is a must-read for fans of The Handmaid's Tale, set in an alternate historical present Finland 'eusistocracy' that revolves around public health and social stability, and where women are bred for beauty and subservience. Women who meet the beauty and subservience standards are allowed to breed and known as ‘eloi’ or ‘femiwoman’ while women outside their beauty standards or who display intelligence are sterilized and labled ‘morlocks.’ The narrator passes as an eloi and has an addiction to capsaicin, an illegal substance under the ‘eusistocracy.’

This was a re-read for me, it seemed timely for a number of reasons, but with The Handmaid's Tale being so highlighted lately I liked the contrast of this title and had a previous interest of including it as a book club read.  The fact that I ended up with two Finnish authors in a row wasn't intentional, but let's go with it (this one for April and The Quantum Thief for May).

Discussion Fodder:

  • Compare and contrast The Core of the Sun to The Handmaid's Tale.  What themes do they share?  How are they handled?  How do the stories differ?
  • The book and the culture within the book makes various literary references.  Do any of them stand out?  What do you think of the sources and applications?
  • What do you think of the author's handling of Vanna/Vera's synethesia?
  • The book is filled with cultural documentation, news articles and the like, presenting reasoning behind the legal strictures of this version of Finland, and in many cases are based on actual published material.  How do they support the narrative?  How does knowing that some of them are actual publications affect your reading?
  • Talk about the gender politics present.  Mascos, minusmen, femiwomen, eloi, and morlocks.  What structures are enabled and encouraged?  How are they manipulated?
  • What are the main relationships in the book?  How do they manifest?
  • How does the book reflect aspects of modern culture?

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