The Separation follows Finn as he struggles to live in a world that separates the sexes and removes children from parents. Did you know where you were going when you started writing or did you let things happen organically?
This novel is actually part of a trilogy. I am currently working on the sequel, “United.” I had this great idea and created three stories based on the characters and storyline. Of course, some of the plot was initially simply outlined and then fleshed out significantly during the actual writing process. I am proud of this book. I think it touches on topics that are universal and of great interest to society today.
This book has a unique resolution to a real overpopulation problem. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this story?
I wanted to address issues that are of great urgency in society today. Without bringing any of my own politics into this interview, I think the novel touches on provocative themes and pressing problems in society today. I won’t reveal all of them because I don’t want to give away the book. I feel this, above all my other work, is a must read. But, overpopulation is a real issue and I think this book addresses the topic head on.
Because the sexes are separated in the story, this makes for some great ‘worlds colliding’ type moments. What was your inspiration behind Finn and Angela’s relationship in the novel?
Their relationship is based on the fact that men and women are going to be different and have viewpoints on the separation (and on life in general) that are not necessarily identical. However, men and women do need each other in many respects. They complete each other in their own complex way. I wanted their relationship to reflect that.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on part two of this trilogy—-“United”–which will be out early in 2019!
In the distant future, there is a separation of the sexes at birth for the good of society. Financial needs, above all else, have led to such drastic measures. The Separation is the story of the life of a male named Finn. The book traces his life at birth and continues past his “education” as well as beyond the time when he ultimately learns of the opposite sex. What will result from the revelation of a female society? Finn may wish he never found out. This is a story of the consequences of needs, desires and answers to questions that sometimes should not be asked.
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It’s the 22nd century and the world is overpopulated and under-educated. To combat this, the government has decided that male and female students will be segregated for their first 22 years of life. They will have no knowledge of the opposite sex or of their parents. Finn is a brilliant and questioning student, but his intelligence leads him to test boundaries and break rules. When he enters the real world he meets Angela, and they have a son, Leonardo, who awaits the same fate of separation. But Finn cannot let go of his son that easily, and he begins to tread on very dangerous ground…
The Separation by Thomas Duffy is a dystopian speculative fiction novel. Duffy has written a story with a fascinating premise, and some hefty themes are handled deftly by the author. Topics of religion, sex, gender and class are woven through the narrative, and many of the questions posed are philosophical ones such as ‘what is really important?’ and ‘what constitutes a ‘good’ life?’ There are interesting reflections on the complexity of human desire, governmental control, finding meaning in the world, and whether career or love is more important–all of which feel quite relevant in today’s world.
Finn makes for a very likeable hero, behaving in ways which are extremely relatable and understandable considering his circumstances. Duffy has written an empathetic protagonist, which isn’t always the case with dystopian fiction, and I was really rooting for him throughout. Some of the other characters, including Angela, remain quite one dimensional which limited me in really believing in, or caring about, her relationship with Finn. I would have liked some more well rounded female protagonists, but perhaps this was a technique used by the author to represent how detached the sexes are.
The book is written mainly in the third-person limited narrative with the focus on Finn, but we get insight into Angela’s thoughts and feelings too which helped me to feel slightly less detached from her. The writing is full of dialogue and at times it is weighed down with exposition—unfortunately, this made a lot of the dialogue feel quite heavy handed and not particularly natural. I particularly struggled with the conversations between Finn and Angela which were lacking in real emotion. Again, this could have been a mechanism used by Duffy to portray their stunted development when it comes to relationships/the opposite sex and communication. Despite this, the narrative moves at a fairly steady pace. I enjoyed watching Finn’s misdemeanours unfold, and there was plenty of action and intrigue to keep me turning pages.
Overall, this is a fascinating addition to sci-fi/dystopian fiction which might leave you in a slight existential crisis! It throws up profound questions about what is truly important in life, and if this sounds a little too intense, there are also lots of unexpected twists, turns and excitement to keep you on your toes.
Pages: 306 | ASIN: B078YRNM8M
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Phoenix tells the story of Sonam and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. What was your inspiration for this heart-felt novel?
I have been inspired by experience and observation. My family background has been similar, and I have closely observed the lives of urban well-educated women in India. Despite a progressive education and multifaceted skills, they are expected to conform to obsolete family norms and not allowed to make life choices. This is especially true for the year 1983, when the protagonist Sonam wants to extricate herself from an abusive marriage. Indian society then was full of paradoxes: on one hand was the evolution of a knowledge society and unprecedented technological advancement and on the other deeply entrenched dogmatic beliefs in gender stereotypes. Instead of sympathising with a woman who was a victim of circumstances, her family and friends blamed her for her misfortunes and ostracised her.
I felt that this novel confronted gender stereotypes in a bold way. What themes did you want to capture while writing this book?
I have always felt strongly about the unequal playing field provided to women, even in the educated elite class, and the perception that they are appendages to male family members, whether father, brother or husband. Why should women be accorded respect only if they have empathetic men to battle for them? This discrimination is especially difficult to combat since one is pushing against one’s parents and closest family members whom one loves and respects. Through this novel, I wanted to highlight the need to cherish and support daughters as individuals regardless of the presence and status of their life partners.
I felt that Sonam was a multilayered character that was judged by her failings rather than her success. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
While her parents despair of what will happen to Sonam after she leaves her husband and judge her by her failure in relationship, she demonstrates exceptional skills and shines in her workplace as an achiever. Her personality growth from 1983 to 2017 despite all odds illustrates the triumph of the spirit over ostracism, bigotry, negativity and injustice. She is rejuvenated from the ashes, just like the mythical bird, phoenix.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next book, tentatively titled ‘A Journey Within’ has a very different story though it also deals with women’s issues. The lives of 16 Indian women of varying age groups intersect when they go on an all-women’s trip to Spain and Portugal. As events unfold during and after the trip, each of them reaches a realization that changes her life forever.
Caught in an abusive marriage, Sonam Aggarwal finds no family support when she struggles to break free. However, with unwavering grit, she makes a place for herself in the world and rises like a phoenix from the ashes of her dead marriage to discover true companionship and professional success.
The evolution of a knowledge society in India that places a premium on human knowledge and skills regardless of gender finally bequeaths her a coveted place in the sun. The novel focuses on the core strength of a woman that asserts her value despite external trappings and women characters who go through their individual struggle with the inevitable challenges that threaten their existence.
Phoenix, a novel, traces the life of Sonam and her upper class family in South Delhi from 1983 to 2017. It highlights the curious paradoxes in Indian society: its global leadership in digitalization contrasted with antiquated prejudices and gender stereotypes.
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