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The Unit

Ninni Holmqvist

 

‘I liked The Unit very much… I know you will be riveted, as I was.’ Margaret Atwood

‘Echoing work by Marge Piercy and Margaret Atwood, The Unit is as thought-provoking as it is compulsively readable.’ Jessica Crispin, NPR.org 

Ninni Holmqvist’s eerie dystopian novel envisions a society in the not-so-distant future where men and women deemed economically worthless are sent to a retirement community called the Unit. With lavish apartments set amongst beautiful gardens and state-of-the-art facilities, elaborate gourmet meals, and wonderful music and art, they are free of financial worries and want for nothing. It’s an idyllic place, but there’s a catch: the residents – known as dispensables – must donate their organs, one by one, until the final donation. When Dorrit Weger arrives at the Unit, she resigns herself to this fate, seeking only peace in her final days. But she soon falls in love, and this unexpected, improbable happiness throws the future into doubt.  

Clinical and haunting, The Unit is a modern-day classic and a spine-chilling cautionary tale about the value of human life.

  • Publication date: April 5, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781780747217
  • RRP: £9.99
  • Pages: 272
  • Publication date: March 1, 2010
  • ISBN: 9781851687732
  • RRP: £4.99
  • Pages: 272

Reviews

‘A haunting, deadpan tale set vaguely in the Scandinavian future… Holmqvist’s spare prose interweaves the Unit’s pleasures and cruelties with exquisite matter-of-factness... Readers actually begin to wonder…is life better as a pampered lab bunny or as a lonely indigent? But then [Holmqvist] turns the screw, presenting a set of events so miraculous and abominable that they literally made me gasp.’

Washington Post

‘I liked The Unit very much... I know you will be riveted, as I was.’

Margaret Atwood

‘The message is bold if not on the nose: If you don’t fall into a classic nuclear family, then your value as a human are the spare parts you can give those who do contribute to traditional family structures. The book’s main character, a writer named Dorrit, is forced to think about the meaning of her life. She’d had a lover, but he wouldn’t leave his wife; she’d birthed art, but never a child. Holmqvist’s writing is clear and precise…the clinical tone contributes to the The Unit’s eeriness. The Unit itself is a place of luxury – amenities include a library, a cafe, immaculately manicured gardens – but it feels as much like home to Dorrit as the promotional photos of an upscale condo. Holmqvist’s is a book of quiet cruelty, and perhaps the most harrowing twist of all is that the world outside the walls of the Unit – one with married couples, one with children – seems even worse. In that way, The Unit’s strength is uncovering beauty in bleakness.’

GQ

‘This haunting first novel imagines a nation in which men and women who haven’t had children by a certain age are taken to a  “reserve bank unit for biological material” and subjected to various physical and psychological experiments, while waiting to have their organs harvested for  “needed” citizens in the outside world... Holmqvist evocatively details the experiences of a woman who falls in love with another resident, and at least momentarily attempts to escape her fate.’

The New Yorker

‘Clinical and haunting, The Unit is a modern-day classic and a spine-chilling cautionary tale about the value of human life.’

Waterstones

‘Holmqvist paces her revelations superbly and the reader is gripped by the atmosphere of slowly mounting claustrophobia.’

New Internationalist

‘Holmqvist handles her dystopia with muted, subtle care… Neither satirical nor polemical, The Unit manages to express a fair degree of moral outrage without ever moralizing…it has enough spooks to make it a feminist, philosophical page-turner.’

Time Out Chicago

‘This dystopian world is described with such exquisite balance between its luxuries and cruelties that the reader is emotionally drawn in and made to face up to often uncomfortable and challenging ethical dilemmas. I cannot recommend this novel, nor signal Holmqvist’s evident talent as an author strongly enough; it is an excellent book.’

What's On UK?

‘Ninni Holmqvist’s The Unit offers a shrewd, timely exploration of gender… The novel has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, but where Margaret Atwood’s classic focuses on procreation, Holmqvist’s novel feels broader, holding both capitalism and traditional gender roles under a harsh light. Dorrit is honest about her life, and she wonders whether the freedom she had in her youth was worth the price she pays now. Any woman – young or old – will relate to her plight.’

Washington Post

‘[A] chilling, stunning debut novel… Holmqvist’s fluid, mesmerizing novel offers unnerving commentary on the way society devalues artistic creation while elevating procreation, and speculation on what it would be like if that was taken to an extreme. For Orwell and Huxley fans.’

Booklist

‘Orwellian horrors in a Xanadu on Xanax  creepily profound and most provocative.’

Kirkus

‘An exploration of female desire, human need, and the purpose of life.’

Publishers Weekly

Ninni Holmqvist

Ninni Holmqvist has published three collections of short stories including Suit [Kostym]. The Unit marks Holmqvist’s debut as a novelist. She also works as a translator. She lives in Skene, Sweden.

Author page

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