FictionWidowland by C. J. Carey

Widowland by C. J. Carey


“To control the past they edited history. To control the future they edited literature”.

Fans of The Handmaids Tale, Fatherland, or The Man in The High Castle – this is one for you. Published in June, this is dystopian, Orwellian, feminist speculative fiction at its finest. 

The book is set in London 1953, but it is an unrecognisable place. The UK have formed an alliance with Germany and Edward VIII is about to be crowned with his wife Wallis as queen. Women are divided into a caste system based on looks, intelligence, breeding and other determining factors, their primary task procreation and deference to men. Women past child bearing age are sent to Widowland. Our main character, Rose belongs to the elite class, her job to amend classical literature to reflect Nazi ideology. 

As a Jewish reader, names like Himmler and Geobbels have a Voldemort quality, I was so innately unsettled by the premise and vividness of the context and I couldn’t help but think of the millions who would have perished beyond those that did. The author @authorjanethynne is clearly steeped in historical knowledge and there was the most phenomenal sense of foreboding that built incrementally as more was revealed about this alternate universe.

I loved the use of the caste system to portray the deep rooted sexism of society, and the fear surrounding literature, culture and history to demonstrate the power of memory, words and creative freedom. I almost held my breath in suspense watching Rose begin to confront the propaganda, her memories of “Before”, it really makes you consider how people can be persuaded to live a life so utterly controlled. The reference to writers such as Mary Woolstencraft, Jane Eyre and the tactic of graffiti to signify unrest and revolution added a depth and realism that elevated this book. 

The ending left me furiously googling to see if a sequel was planned. As serious as the premise is this wasn’t a hard book to read, the prose wasn’t saturated with detail or explicit which I think was clever as going further would have made this more provocative and sensationalist. Thank you so much @quercusbooks for sending us a copy.

– Chaya.

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