I'd been trying to figure out what this book was actually called for ages. Ironically I'd placed it on my to read list again but I just recalled that this was that book I'd read.
As far as I recall this novel featured a vision of the future where all jobs are given out at a kind of graduation from school. The main protagonist ends up getting a job where he becomes the one person capable of remembering pain, war and negative emotions. Because basically in this utopia everyone lives calm peaceful lives. Sexuality is repressed with special pills when the kids have 'funny dreams' I think it was sort of phrased. No one properly experiences pain either as far as I recall. The downside to all this peaceful, dopey state of existence is that it removes all the joyful things from life. All the colour and activities which may have been possible if society hadn't wanted to avoid any pain at all cost. Which poses an interesting question about whether we need pain for enjoyment with the world as it is.
Lowry's work as I remember mainly intended to prompt subtle questioning. Yet I felt when I read it and I recall it as such now that it was too passive in its voice. She came up with a powerful idea and yet rarely never used those ideas to promote any message, any theme. She played it too safe. Which made me wonder why there was so much criticism for the book years ago. I think perhaps the fact that she was questioning ideas such as euthanasia and the whole topic of pain is the main reason and that many people saw this as aimed at children. But from my perspective she merely puts those things in her work and doesn't do anything with them. Hence it lacks power compared to other dystopian novels with similar questioning themes. And when it comes to this as a work for children I read it when I was about twelve or fourteen and there was nothing which really shocked me. In fact I've read novels aimed at younger kids which were more gruesome. I think perhaps that sometimes critics just like to have a reason to bring popular works into contention.