Mother Tongue by Patricia Forde

A review of the children’s ecological novel Mother Tongue by Patricia Forde.

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Mother Tongue by Patricia Forde is the latest instalment in The Wordsmith Series, a sequence of books about a world devastated by climate change, and ruled by a tyrannical leader who controls language. They force people to speak from “The List,” which has been whittled down to just fifty words for the newest generation. The protagonist, Letta, who is the Wordsmith, and the remaining rebels have one last monster to slay in their journey to freedom.

The most interesting aspect of Forde’s work here is the emphasis on language. As a reader, you experience characters that speak List, and it is concerning how limited they are in their ability to communicate. As someone who works in education, this was particularly poignant for me as I know that there are children from deprived areas who find it difficult to express themselves. Therefore, if this book teaches us anything it is the importance of language.

Forde covers the theme of nature in a way that explores its beauty and terror at the same time. The land where the characters live has been destroyed by climate change, but throughout the book it is clear that nature persists and is not a force that carries humanity, but rather something that society has to adapt to; this is seen in the time spent in the forest, which is described as being magnificent and deadly.

Overall, this book is gripping and emotional. The descriptions of the landscape are second-to-none, and the private moments the reader shares with Letta are priceless.

Kirsty-Louise is a published author and poet with a BA hons in English Literature. Working as a Secondary English Teacher, dog walks on the coast, and reading books pass her time in Ramsgate & Margate.

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