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Daughters of the North
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Daughters of the North

3.7 41
by Sarah Hall

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In her stunning novel, Hall imagines a new dystopia set in the not-too-distant future. England is in a state of environmental crisis and economic collapse. There has been a census, and all citizens have been herded into urban centers. Reproduction has become a lottery, with contraceptive coils fitted to every female of childbearing age. A girl who will become known


In her stunning novel, Hall imagines a new dystopia set in the not-too-distant future. England is in a state of environmental crisis and economic collapse. There has been a census, and all citizens have been herded into urban centers. Reproduction has become a lottery, with contraceptive coils fitted to every female of childbearing age. A girl who will become known only as "Sister" escapes the confines of her repressive marriage to find an isolated group of women living as "un-officials" in Carhullan, a remote northern farm, where she must find out whether she has it in herself to become a rebel fighter. Provocative and timely, Daughters of the North poses questions about the lengths women will go to resist their oppressors, and under what circumstances might an ordinary person become a terrorist.

Editorial Reviews

(FIVE STARS) - OK! Magazine
"If you liked Children of Men, give this sci-fi page-turner a read. Sister exists in a dystopian future where the UK is under a totalitarian regime."
Independent Weekly (Durham
“A ferocious dystopian novel…Hall’s dystopian story of resistance and struggle…must be read at the same time as a kind of optimism, striking in its final pages a defiant chord that reminds us power can sometimes be defeated, if not always, and if always at great cost.”
(Durham) - Independent Weekly
"A ferocious dystopian novel…Hall’s dystopian story of resistance and struggle…must be read at the same time as a kind of optimism, striking in its final pages a defiant chord that reminds us power can sometimes be defeated, if not always, and if always at great cost."
NPR's "BOOKS WE LIKE" (Jessa Crispin of BookSlut.com reviewing)
“Jackie is not infallible, and her methods in pursuit of the greater good are not always kind. But that is what makes Daughters of the North a novel, not an allegory. Hall has created a complex, tight work about hope springing out of resistance.”
OK! Magazine (FIVE STARS)
“If you liked Children of Men, give this sci-fi page-turner a read. Sister exists in a dystopian future where the UK is under a totalitarian regime.”
Publishers Weekly

Chronicling a journey of violence, oppression and fleeting liberation, this brutal third novel from the author of The Electric Michelangelois a timely feminist commentary on war, gender, politics and identity. Set in a dystopian near-future northern U.K. where global warming, a fuel crisis, drug epidemics and a cruel totalitarian regime known as the Authority have savaged the land and people, the story is told by Sister, a young woman living in cramped terrace quarters. Sterilized against her will (the result of the Authority's female sterilization policy) and forced to work in a "New Fuel" factory, Sister escapes to seek out Carhullan, a shadowy all-female commune run by the enigmatic Jackie Nixon. Carhullan is a hard-knocks utopia, in which women's strengths and passions grow from manual labor, paramilitary training and intense, sometimes sexual, friendships. As the threat of the Authority grows, Sister rises in the ranks of the Carhullan resistance force, oblivious to the increasing similarities between the Authority and Jackie's seductive, psychological control. Though the climax and denouement are sloppily handled, the overall effect is haunting, timely and well wrought. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In a flooded, postapocalyptic Britain, most of the country is wet and uninhabitable; what remains above ground is in the tight control of a repressive, misogynist regime called "The Authority." Citizens are assigned work in newly essential industries and are provided with tightly shared living quarters; women are force-fitted with contraceptive devices except for the fortunate few who win the breeding lottery. From these hellish conditions, a young woman leaves behind her husband and home to seek out a fabled, utopian community of women in the north. The brutal reception she receives upon her arrival there is offset by the warm communality that follows her acceptance into the group. However, all is not well, as the women must face predatory outside forces, and the novel races toward a riveting conclusion. After Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami, this foreboding tale by Hall (The Electric Michelangelo ) seems eerily imaginable. Sure to be of interest to readers of Cormac McCarthy's The Road and others who like their apocalyptic fiction raw.-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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 restraintin her depiction of feminine strength. Agent: Clare Conville/Conville & Walsh

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)

Read an Excerpt

Daughters of the North
A Novel

Chapter One

My name is Sister.

This is the name that was given to me three years ago. It is what the others called me. It is what I call myself. Before that, my name was unimportant. I can't remember it being used. I will not answer to it now, or hear myself say it out loud. I will not sign to acknowledge it. It is gone. You will call me Sister.

I was the last woman to go looking for Carhullan.

It was a wet rotting October when I left. In the town the leaves had begun to drop and their yellow pulp lay on the ground. The last belts of thunderstorms and downpours were passing through the Northern region. Summer was on its way out. The atmosphere felt as if it was finally breaking apart, and at night and in the mornings something cooler had set in. It was a relief not to wake up sweating under the sheet in our room in the terrace quarters, coming out of some hot nightmare with milky dampness on my chest. I have always slept better in the winter. It feels like my pulse runs slower then.

This freshness seemed to cleanse the town too. The bacterial smell of the refinery and fuel plants began to disperse at night when the clouds thinned and the heat lifted. Each year after the Civil Reorganisation summer's humidity had lasted longer, pushing the colder seasons into a smaller section of the calendar, surrounding us constantly with the smog of rape and tar-sand burning off, and all of us packed tightly together like fish in a smoking shed.

The change of temperature brought with it a feeling of excitement, an alertness that went beyond nerves or the heightened awareness of the risksI knew I was taking. It was restorative. The cool reminded me of my childhood. Back then the weather had been more distinct, separated. Some older people in the factory where I worked said of all the English traditions to have been compromised, the weather was the saddest. As if there had been a choice of some kind, a referendum for these semi-tropics.

I still recall the fresh ticking of hail on my face in March as I stood to catch the bus for school. And autumn blusters, when objects large and small were bellowed back and forth. The deep-vein chill of January; my hands and feet numb under fleece and wool. You don't fear possibility when you are young. You don't believe the world can really be broken or that anything terrible will happen during your lifetime.

Even the rain is different now; erratic, violent, not the constant grey drizzle of old postcards, jokes, and television reports. It's rain that feels wounded. There is seldom any snow on the fells, though people in the town look for it out of habit.

Where I was going the altitude was high, it was remote, and part of me hoped that if I stayed there long enough I would see those white drifts again.

I left at dawn, so I could get out of Rith without being noticed. My rucksack was packed light enough to carry a long distance, then on, up into the mountains. I was not bringing much away with me—clothes, boots, some tins of food and squares of rusk, a canister of water, a medical kit in case the regulator could be taken out of me, though I didn't know if that would be possible. And I had an old Second World War rifle, packed between the jumpers and waterproofs; its stunted barrel nuzzled against the top flap. This was what I planned to bargain with at Carhullan.

I had hidden the bag in an alleyway behind our building the previous night so I could get down the stairs without the extra weight, without bumping and scraping the walls on my descent. It was pushed into an alcove behind the main chamber of the rain tank where it was dark and dry. I'd put it there while the families in the other quarters were eating dinner, and before my husband got back from his shift, checking the void first with a stick to make sure there were no rats' nests.

In the early morning I left our bed without waking Andrew and dressed quietly in the communal bathroom. I'd stowed a plastic bag in the pocket of my trousers to collect the items I needed. There was a new packet of soap on the shelf belonging to the family in the next room, and I took that too, slipping it into the bag with my toothpaste, deodorant, a razor and some blades. I paused for a moment before opening the little medicine cabinet they used. There was some aspirin, a packet of sanitary towels, and a sachet of powder for treating cystitis that was long out of date. I gathered them up. Then I made my way along the hall and down the stairs.

Outside the door of the building I waited a minute or two to be sure that Andrew had not heard me leaving, trying to be calm. My heart was sending fast volleys of blood up through my chest. I could feel the contact and back-turn of pulse in my fingertips. I told myself it would be OK. In the last month I had trained myself to wake early and had practised this departure. Always I'd made it out silently and safely, then I'd walked around the dark town, careful to avoid the patches where the feral dogs roamed, before coming home again. But this was not a dry run. I breathed deeply, blew the air out, and waited. The last thing I wanted was to have Andrew following me down, calling me crazy, creating a fuss and waking the people above. He would never have let me go off with a packed bag, out of the official zones, even though we were at odds now, hateful or silent towards each other.

Daughters of the North
A Novel
. Copyright © by Sarah Hall. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Sarah Hall was born in 1974 in Cumbria, England. She received a master of letters in creative writing from Scotland's St. Andrews University and has published four novels. Haweswater won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (overall winner, Best First Novel) and a Society of Authors Betty Trask Award. The Electric Michelangelo was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Eurasia Region), and the Prix Femina Étranger, and was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Daughters of the North won the 2006/07 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction. How to Paint a Dead Man was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Portico Prize for Fiction. In 2013 Hall was named one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists, a prize awarded every ten years, and she won the BBC National Short Story Award and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Brief Biography

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA and Carlisle, Cumbria, UK
Date of Birth:
January 6, 1974
Place of Birth:
Carlisle, Cumbria, UK
B.A., The University of Wales, Aberystwyth; M.A. in Creative Writing, St. Andrews University, Scotland

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Daughters of the North 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was good, however major sections were missing noting "data lost". Most disappointing was the missing section of the last chapter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I started this book, I might have given it 4 stars. I liked the first quarter of of the book. I enjoyed hearing about the apocolyptic world and Sister's jouney to the farm. Once she got there I started to lose interest. The characters weren't fleshed out and I didnt really like anyone all the much. I usually like a feminist novel, but I didnt find any of these woman sympathetic or even interesting. I think it was a nice idea executed pretty badly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book depicts a futuristic Britain under totalitarian rule. It follows the story of one womens escape into the highlands and her views of what occurs around her. Definately a thought provoking story written inan interesting way.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the near future in the United Kingdom global warming has made this once proud place into wetlands. The climate change accompanied by a critical fuel shortage has led to the establishment of an abusive totalitarian rule. The Authority uses the guise of security to kill anyone who opposes them they use fuel shortages to control population with enforced sterilization they encourage drug addiction to keep the masses ignorant of their plight. If innocents are hurt so be it as collateral damage occurs.------------------ The Authority sterilized Sister against her will. They made her work in a 'New Fuel' factory in conditions that makes Dickens¿ Victorian tales look like fairy tales. She is assigned cramped quarters. Sister wants out feeling that if she can make it to legendary Carhullan, an all-female commune she can survive. Run by Jackie Nixon with discipline to foster strengths, the paramilitary group is outlawed by the Authority who plans to destroy these Amazon rebels. ------------------- Although the ending is too obvious for such a complex thought provoking tale, readers will appreciate this powerful near future thriller that extrapolates from Katrina and the Christmas Tsunami. However, it is not the environmental disaster that holds the reader¿s attention it is the heroine and how she sees the world. Sister believes the Authority is evil from her position in the ooze below their food chain she thinks of Carhullan as freedom fighters from her rising up their chain towards the top. Ironically she is unable to accept how similar the two groups are in their ruthless use of expendables to achieve their respective goals. With obvious comparison to the Mideast, DAUGHTERS OF THE NORTH is a terrific futuristic thriller.------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The "[data lost]" thing is a cop-out, given the only places it is used; and its also a confusing device to stumble over on an e-reader. There is a lot of potential in this story, and it has occasional moments of excellent prose, but the whole thing is not fully realized.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Characters had little depth. Plot was slow at times. Lesbian sex scenes. Raunchy. Didnt finish it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this story. But that was overshadowed by the disappointment of missing sections due to data lost." Missing the most important part, the part the entire storylined worked up to, was a big letdown. I would recommend the hard copy instead of the nook version based solely on that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
enjoyed this little book. make you think what could happen in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is different and has an intersting storyline and surprisngly enough I enjoyed it a lot. Good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The e-copy i have is missing a few chunks of text that had valuable plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could barely put this down. The characters are extremely well written the scenes are set and described so weel you can smell, taste and see it in your mind clearly while reading. Its killing me that her Electric book is not nookable - but she is such a great writer I may actually buy the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So scary to think this could happen. This book make you think. Ehat eould YOU do? Enjoyed this book. There were a few places where I lost interest but mostly was a book that was hard to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great read. Unfortunately large portion of content were missing. Very disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Many readers have missed the point that the author herself has inserted so called missing data portions. That should gave been explained by the author so the readers understood it was her doing and not a glitch on the electronic edition. That said I enjoyed the story and found the concept engrossing. However there were some words she used, like 'bields', that I was not familiar with nor could I find them when I searched for them online. This did take away some enjoyment of the story as I felt I was reading a made up language. ~*~LEB~*~
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little slow but I enjoyed it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesring story but choppy and feels incomplete. Dont like the technique of using lost records to leave out important scenes. Otherwise good writing
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didnt care for the last quarter of the book at all