Thursday, September 06, 2018

The Bottle Stopper by Angeline Trevena

When Maeve was six years old, her mother was taken away by the authorities for crimes against the state. Since that time she lived with her Uncle Lou, a horrible, abusive man that runs a sham of an apothecary. Maeve’s job is to scavenge old bottles from the nooks and crannies and alleyways of the “The Floor,” the poorest slum of the city of Falside where they live, and fill them with medicine to sell in the shop. In reality, the “medicine” is the polluted water from the local river and a sprig of whatever plant material she has gathered. It is a grinding existence until Topley and her loving parents open the bakery next door.

Topley’s family gives Maeve a vision of another life that she, too, can have once she turns 18 leaves Uncle Lou. But when Topley suddenly falls ill and her desperate mother resorts to some of Uncle Lou’s medicine, Maeve’s dream of a better life changes to one of revenge.

Maeve’s world of Falside is grim and bleak where women are restricted and controlled and viewed as property. The birth of female children has, unaccountably, become a rare occurrence, and leaving Falside is viewed as treasonous and punishable by death. But there is a glimmer of revolution here and there such as in “The Paper Duchess,” an old bookstore off the beaten path, where Denver, Kerise, and Tale try to discover what happened to Maeve’s mother.

The Bottle Stopper is a dark and well-developed beginning to The Paper Duchess series. It is recommended for readers that enjoy dystopian tales and those with similarities to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

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