In a dystopian future, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to replace her younger sister in the annual ‘Hunger Games’, where teenage ‘tributes’ are pitted against each other in a fight to the death.
Katniss’s companion – and adversary – in the Games is Peeta Mellark, a boy from her district, with whom she must feign a romance in order to win over the viewers of the Games. Because popularity means sponsors – and sponsors mean an increased chance of survival…
Where did I get hold of the book?
I was planning to get this one from my local public library. I checked their catalogue, saw that it was available, and found a friendly librarian to point me to the right shelf… but it wasn’t there. Sadly I’d left it a bit too late to wait for them to search for it, so I ended up buying it for the Kindle app on my tablet (a Google Nexus 10).
- Find the book in a library near you.
- Support local independent bookshops by buying the book from Hive (UK).
What did I learn from it?
A few hints and tips about outdoor survival. Katniss is shown to be an expert hunter, and through her actions in the Games arena we learn about the different ways it’s possible to live (and die) in the wild:
- shooting, snaring, skinning, and cooking game;
- identifying edible berries and roots;
- recognising dangerous wildlife;
- purification of water with iodine tablets;
- tracking, climbing trees, hiding, and camouflage;
- wielding a range of weapons;
- and, not least, the importance of adequate food and water intake, which in our world we so often take for granted.
I wouldn’t say exactly that it reminded me of my youthful expeditions with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Scheme, but it did make me realise that I have lost a number of skills I used to have – even if those were identifying animals and plants rather than shooting a bow and arrow!
How did it make me see the world differently?
The detailed descriptions of what it is like to be genuinely near death due to lack of food or water made me feel very grateful for my comfortable first-world life. I’ve been going through a thrifty patch recently due to a slow-down in my freelance workload, but this book reminded me that having to buy cheap rice rather than posh rice, or having to forgo a packet of biscuits in order to buy potatoes, is really nothing compared to having no rice or potatoes at all.
The book also chilled me with its depiction of what it’s like to live in a dictatorship, where your very life depends on your ability to please those in power, even when those in power appear to be no more than irascible, irrational, spoiled children. To some extent we all modify the words that come out of our mouths, to suit our ‘audiences’ – we rarely express our raw, unadulterated thoughts – but so often this is merely to make our lives easier. Not to literally save them.
Incidents such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks are a reminder that, whatever our circumstances, we are not guaranteed safe freedom of expression. The Hunger Games illustrates what life could be like if this freedom continues to be threatened.
What changes will I make to my life as a result of it?
I’m only half joking when I say I’ll pay a bit more attention to garnering some more survival skills, in case of the world going tits up at any point! Not that I anticipate a full-on Walking Dead-style zombie apocalypse, but it can’t hurt to dig out a few water purification tablets and gen up on some edible plants, can it? You never really know what’s round the corner…
I’ll also try to be more courageous in the expression of my own beliefs. Given that a lot of what I think and feel isn’t likely to cause offence of a violent nature – I’m more afraid of being put down and laughed at – I realise I’m squandering the chance to speak my mind, when others aren’t quite so fortunate.
I hope that The Hunger Games will make me braver.
Over to you…
Has this post inspired you to read the book for yourself?
If you’ve read it, do you agree with what I’ve said? Did you have insights that I’ve not mentioned?
Please share in the comments below!