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
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.
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
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.”
(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."
Read an Excerpt
Daughters of the North
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.