38. WHEN SHE WOKE, BY HILLARY JORDAN
This book was recommended to me as a “very enjoyable feminist book”. It was enjoyable, and feminist too, but it was not without its issues. It’s quite reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, as many people who have reviewed this book have pointed out, but very naive in comparison to it. But I don’t think comparing books is fair or necessary, so I won’t mention Margaret Atwood again in this review.
Synopsis: Hannah has lived her entire life struggling to obey the strict religious rules that have been imposed on her. But when she to has an abortion and is sentenced to be chromed, having her skin dyed red to mark her as a murderer, she begins to rethink the fairness of those rules and that way of looking at the world.
Overall enjoyment: I actually quite liked it for the most part. But then, three quarters of the way to the end, there is an episode that is almost bizarre in its incongruence with the rest of the story. Until then, I would have given this book a 7.5/10; after that, I can’t give it more than 5/10. Still, the rest of it is well-written and thought out.
Plot: It’s an interesting premise, if not entirely fresh. The ending is a little bit rushed, and I’m not even counting that bizarre encounter with Aidan, but the beginning and the middle kept me interested, with enough suspense and drama.
Characters: Mostly, well-developed. And, yes, the problem I’m having here is with her going back to meet Aidan. That was so far out of character I did a physical double-take when I read it. The lesbian scene was a bit of a push, since Hannah was just starting to free herself from all the dogmas she had grown up obeying, but it wasn’t completely incongruent, especially since she had just had a very big emotional shock and was craving human touch. But then she accepts that she might be capable of feeling attraction to another woman and the FIRST THING she thinks of is of going back to her lover! That was ridiculous, especially in the context, and it undid almost entirely her character development. And then she goes after him, risking all her hopes and all the people who had helped her without a second thought. I could have bought it if she were on the road, and something bad had happened; she would have been wanting some comfort, and would check her messages because of it, and then she would find his message and so on. But not the way it was done. And the relationship between her and Aidan is not very well done either; almost the entire book you get the impression that she’s just his lover and he’s just using her, manipulating his feelings, and in the end he does that big, selfless gesture that is just mind-boggling.
World/setting: It was pretty good and well thought out. She gives just enough hints of what happened in the past to make the present believable without delving into endless exposition or falling into contradictions.
Writing style: Easy to read and with a nice flow to it.
Representation: The main character is white (until she is chromed) and middle class, but her best friend is a POC and one of her saviors is a lesbian; the main character even considers the possibility of being bisexual herself.
Political correctness: It is quite a feminist book, envisioning a future where the government is dominated by the church and heavily patriarchal. I thought it was interesting how the most cruel characters were women, and how well that applies to a patriarchal society: the women who have the “privilege” of being treated better than the rest are usually the ones to make sure the other ones conform. She also discusses the problem with POC and the imbalance of power between them and white people. There were a few problems, though, especially when she condemns women for being too feminist. For instance, she half excuses Stanton of selling Hannah and her friend as slaves because he resented the fact that his mother dedicated herself to the feminist movement and didn’t give him as much attention as he wanted. But Aidan, dedicating himself to being a priest and helping people regardless of how much attention he gives his wife, is a saint. And, once again, I’m just going to ignore their encounter and that public announcement in the end; that’s just too bizarre and nonsensical for words.
Up next: The Mad Ship, by Robin Hobb