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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Daughters of the North" by Sarah Hall (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Sarah Hall at Wikipedia
Order "Daughters of the North" HERE
Read an Excerpt from "Daughters of the North"

INTRODUCTION: I have heard of the acclaimed The Carhullan Army (UK) aka Daughters of the North (US) in 2008 but its subject seemed quite far away from my interests, so I did not check it out. After reading "How to Paint a Dead Man" (FBC Review) and being entranced by Ms. Hall's prose, I decided to try this one soon after.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: This is a very powerful novel - not necessary in subject which is on well trod ground though with a contemporary take with global climate change rather than religious fanaticism as the "villain", or better put as the catalyst of disaster - nor in "world building" or action per se, since the novel has an odd truncated structure, but in voice, style and authenticity.

The angry but determined voice works pitch perfect and you feel the anger, powerlessness, determination and then grim resistance however futile rational thought may say it will be, through the eyes of "Sister", the unnamed narrator of the novel.

While a feminist and mostly leftist paean, the novel should resonate strongly with anyone who experienced the "powerlessness" of living under a brutal authoritarian regime, where life is cheap, misery is everywhere, and men and women have lives hitched to an ever-turning wheel that grinds them down day by day, unless of course they are part of the elite oppressors.

The Carhullan women only want to live in peace, not bothering anyone but not subjecting themselves to an oppressive and illegitimate power either. While some among them dream of vengeance or "heroic acts", sane and cool heads prevail until the government decides to clamp down, and I felt that their response however brutal and on the verge of putting them on the same moral level with the oppressors, was justified since I strongly believe that in a war for survival that is brought by someone else against you, no quarter is to be given. Asking hard questions about how far is legitimate to go to protect one's freedom and coming with no easy or pat answers was part of the "authenticity" mentioned above and added a lot to my appreciation of the novel.

The writing style is just superb and from the first page you are plunged in the immediacy of "Sister's" life, while the description and world building are so vivid that you truly believe in the England of the novel. Not a long novel by page count, "Daughters of the North" packs a lot in its 200 odd pages and once opened it is very hard to stop turning pages until the end.

If you want resolution, satisfaction, detailed world building or coherent plot, the novel is not really for you, but if you want to read a true ode to freedom against all odds - and not a cheap manufactured, magic ring beats the dark lord by winking - the book is for you and it deserves all the acclaim it got.

Note: To comply with the new FTC regs that will enter into effect soon, we will try and mark the provenience of each book reviewed here. As mentioned in the review,
both Daughters of the North and How to Paint a Dead Man were bought my me.


Anonymous said...

You don't need to disclose when you brought the book yourself (and in all honesty it comes across bad). But only when you got the book from the publisher. If you just said "recieved arc from publisher" that would be fine.

Liviu said...

The disclosure issue is very tricky - I have no idea how it will be enforced, but FCC has clearly stated through its representatives that any *material* fact has to be disclosed including in tweets (yes, you gotta fit it in 140 or whatever words), Facebook and other social media outlets...

I am thinking of how to address it so maybe 3 statements like this will do:

1. This book has been reviewed based on an independently acquired copy

2. This book has been reviewed based on an independently acquired copy but we have received arcs of other books from its publisher

3. This has been reviewed based on a publisher/author provided copy

Emperor said...

I had hear about this on G4 TV. I cant believe that we are expected to moderate our tweets. On that point though, I believe twitter or tweeter...or not really neccessary.

Liviu said...

As with other well-meaning but muddled regulations, who knows what will happen...

We are doing things here in our free time without getting paid - we receive books from publishers but we still buy tons of books ourselves as well as use libraries and so on because after all we love books here - and the last thing we want or need is trouble because of this issue so we are trying to preempt the issue and will have an uniform disclaimer soon.

I saw other sites putting a blanket disclaimer somewhere permanent and we will do that if it is acceptable to the regulators...

Regarding Tweeter, Facebook... some of what is said by FTC reps in interviews seems over the top and hopefully there will be more clarity when Dec 1 comes, but again....


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