Set in a darkly eerie future, this story examines how a band of women fight the elusive and powerful Authority that now controls Britain.
Told in retrospect, through a series of transcribed statements from a “female prisoner detained under Section 4 (b) of the Insurgency Prevention (Unrestricted Powers) Act,” the novel is clearly making a political statement. The narrator describes how in growing disgust she decided to leave her lover Andrew and surreptitiously make her way from the town of Rith to Carhullan, a colony of dissident women, in the hopes of finding both protection and strength to fight the ominous (and nebulous) Authority, which through a lottery system decides when women can try to conceive. After a short but arduous journey she makes her way to the colony, located in a remote area of Cumbria, where she is renamed “Sister” by Jackie Nixon, the rugged leader of the group of 64. At first treated with suspicion, Sister eventually begins to fit into the group and sort out the complex dynamics of the community. One of the younger members of the community is 14-year-old Megan, an innocent who “had not been exposed to a world of inferiority or cattiness, nor male dominance. She was, in a way, an idealised female.” In moments like these—and too many others—subtlety is replaced with heavy-handedness. The group is in training for an eventual military strike against the government, and Sister joins a particularly elite strike force, something between the Navy SEALs and ninja warriors. The cadre of warriors eventually sets about capturing the Authority headquarters in Rith, but the rebellion has little chance.
British author Hall (The Electric Michelangelo, 2004, etc.) lacks restraint in her depiction of feminine strength.