Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Daughters of the North

Daughters of the NorthDaughters of the North by Sarah Hall

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2.5 instead of 3. An unnamed woman recounts her journey from the post-apocalyptic British town of Rith to the isolated, Female-dominated farm of Carhullan. “Sister” first seeks shelter & occupation, hoping that her country life will be more fulfilling than her proscribed existence of town wife & quasi-public property. But she soon becomes a devoted follower of Jackie, the head of Carhullan, who is conflicted about the continued purpose of the farm: self-sufficient female utopiaor haven for Amazons & rebels. Sides are chosen & soon Jackie prepares her supporters to advance on the towns.

A competently written story that lacks heart. While Sister’s story is grim & reaches 1984-levels of poverty & despair, neither my sympathy nor my emotional investment were caught by her tale. Her recounting is more of a rote summary than a heartfelt expression & I think this is where the presentation of the narrative is in conflict with its actual story. This is the supposed transcript of a police statement given by a woman whose been instructed to stay “on message” by her leader.

Important events like the disintegration of order on the farm lacks impact because the stakes aren’t entirely clear. Readers will understand the point that Hall is trying to make about the similarities between Sister’s life in Rith & Jackie’s increased dictatorship at Carhullan. But Jackie’s arguments to engage first & not wait for government intervention hangs together and it’s difficult to support any doubt because of the large number of unknown variables. The women’s “training through torture” doesn’t seem at all silly when there are plenty of real & fictional stories that would indicate that their “enemies” would treat them in such a cruel fashion just because human order has degraded to such a state. There are no strong viewpoints outside of Jackie’s & Sister does seem to have much investment in others. This lack of knowing what the real threat is ends up extending to readers as well.

Overall, a fair read but not as compelling as it could be. Might pair as an interesting companion to another dystopic book.

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