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Thursday, 10 June 2021

Book Review: Widowland by C.J. Carey

Widowland by C.J. Carey book cover

AD* | To control the past, they edited history. To control the future, they edited literature.

London, 1953, Coronation year - but not the Coronation of Elizabeth II.

Thirteen years have passed since a Grand Alliance between Great Britain and Germany was formalized. George VI and his family have been murdered and Edward VIII rules as King. Yet, in practice, all power is vested in Alfred Rosenberg, Britain's Protector. Britain is the perfect petri dish for the ideal society, and the role and status of women is Roseberg's particular interest. Under the Rosenberg regulations, women are divided into a number of castes according to age, heritage, reproductive status and physical characteristics.

Rose belongs to the elite caste of Gelis. She works at the Ministry of Culture rewriting literature to correct the views of the past. She has been charged with making Jane Eyre more submissive, Elizabeth Bennet less feisty and Dorothea Brooke less intelligent. One morning she is summoned to the Cultural Commissioner's office and given a special task.

Outbreaks of insurgency have been seen across the country. Graffiti has been daubed on public buildings. Disturbingly, the graffiti is made up of lines from famous works, subversive lines from the voices of women. Suspicion has fallen on Widowland, the run-down slums inhabited by childless women over fifty, the lowest caste. These women are known to be mutinous, for they seem to have lost their fear. Before the Leader arrives for the Coronation ceremony, Rose must infiltrate Widowland and find the source of this rebellion.

But as she begins to investigate, she discovers something that could change the protectorate forever, and in the process change herself.

Uniquely gripping, Widowland imagines a chilling alternate history with a strong dystopian twist. 

The alternate world is well fleshed out and eerily realistic. It's hard to believe that an England like this could easily have existed, yet that only makes the story all the more powerful. 

There is also a strong feminist element to the book. In a society where women vastly outnumber men, interesting social dynamics and an unsettling caste system determine almost every aspect of their lives. However, as the main character Rose soon discovers, there are always those who are willing to fight for their rights, equality, and ultimately, their freedom.

Once the world and characters have been established, it isn't long before the pace picks up and soon, the plot is moving towards its thrilling conclusion. It is fast-paced towards the end, so be warned - you won't be able to put it down! 

The ending also leaves several key questions unanswered and some main plot points unfinished. This achieves a heightened sense of tension and also leaves the plot open-ended for the reader to draw their own conclusion from the events at the end of the book. I know I would love a sequel, but I do wonder if that would spoil the magic of the story. I'll leave that for you to make your own minds up.

Widowland is one of the most original, thought-provoking books I've read in a long time. It's definitely landing among my favourite books of the year so far - make sure you grab a copy!

Rating: 5 stars

Widowland is available to buy now. 

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below! 

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