Hůlová’s provocative satire of a feminist future challenges and unsettles in equal parts.

THE MOVEMENT

One part Animal Farm, one part The Handmaid’s Tale, one part A Clockwork Orange, and (maybe) one part Frankenstein, Czech writer Hůlová’s novel dismantles the patriarchy and replaces it with a terrifying alternative.

Vera, a true believer in the goals and methods of a dystopic regime, narrates this chilling—yet plausible—account of blind adherence to an ethos stretched beyond reason. Employed as a guard at a reeducation center devoted to teaching men to value women based on qualities other than physical appearance and “charm”—Vera recounts the history of The Movement and her own life. The Movement’s mythologized founder, Rita, is reported to have asked her mother as a child why a female model on a billboard was naked. Her mother’s ominous silence in reply sparked Rita's passion to right generations of unethical treatment of women by any means necessary. The grotesqueries of The Movement’s reeducation practices, some of which may be disturbing to the squeamish, are recited in a matter-of-fact voice with a veneer of self-righteousness. Vera—seemingly humorless and lacking an ability to judge interpersonal relationships in any way other than that prescribed by The Movement—seeks to document the history and successes of the regime despite the evidence of its cruelty, ineffectiveness in some cases, and lack of popular support in others. Vera’s own mother, an early supporter of The Movement, for example, seems to interpret its code of behavior somewhat more loosely than her daughter does, and what is Vera to make of the women who do not subscribe to The Movement’s purported interest in their well-being?

Hůlová’s provocative satire of a feminist future challenges and unsettles in equal parts.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64286-100-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: World Editions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

An enthralling dystopian drama that makes complex points about parenting with depth and feeling.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS

Current ideas about parenting are held up to scrutiny in a dark satire that's also a dramatic women-in-prison story.

"There are seventeen women tonight, including Frida. In one lit corner, they sit on cold metal folding chairs, arranged in a circle....They could be stars of a slasher film or the world's saddest hip-hop video." But in fact, they are mothers who have been separated from their children and incarcerated for one year at a former college campus outside Philadelphia. Recalling The Handmaids' Tale, Orange Is the New Black, and Clockwork Orange, Chan's debut features Frida, a 39-year-old Chinese American mom with a part-time job in academia and an 18-month-old named Harriet. Left for a younger woman by her husband, Gust, soon after their daughter was born, Frida is struggling with exhaustion and loneliness when she has her "very bad day"—she leaves Harriet alone in the house while she goes out to get coffee and pick up papers at work. Harriet is taken into custody, then sent to live with Gust and his girlfriend while Frida is surveilled in her home and on supervised visits to determine her fitness to parent. When she fails, she is remanded to reform school with other mothers who have looked away at the wrong time, who have given in to anger or selfishness, who must now repent and relearn. "I am a narcissist. I am a danger to my child," they are trained to recite, along with "I am a bad mother, but I am learning to be good." They are paired with lifelike robot dolls on whom they practice "Fundamentals of Care and Nurture" and study "Dangers Inside and Outside the Home." They are taught to speak "motherese" and to disregard their own needs and desires; they are tested, monitored, scanned, and evaluated. Friendships and romances bloom; desperation spreads; trouble brews. If this doesn't become a miniseries, nothing will.

An enthralling dystopian drama that makes complex points about parenting with depth and feeling.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982156-12-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more