Title: Red Clocks
Author: Leni Zumas
Genre: Women’s Literature, Political Fiction, Dystopain Fiction
If you’re a fan of dystopian futures and corrupt political scandals, you’ll love Red Clocks. Over the last few months, this book kept reappearing on my Instagram feed (I’m there under a_commuters_bookshelf if you fancy a new book blog to follow) and I could see people comparing it to The Handmaids Tale and The Power. At this moment of time, I haven’t read The Power, but I had just finished the Margaret Atwood classic, so I was eager to read something that had so much praise.
So I loaded up my Kindle, and found it on Amazon.
And instantly I was hooked.
Set in a small Oregon town, Red Clocks follows the individual stories of four women. These women live in a world where abortion had recently become a criminal offense (with the idea that at the point of conception, a fetus is a human being, therefore abortion is now murder) and that girls would become jailed if they abort a pregnancy. A ‘Pink Wall’ divides America from abortion-friendly Canada, and crossing the border is, once again, a jailable offense. Also, IVF has recently been banned and that to adopt a child, you’d have to be heterosexual and married.
The reader navigates this new political landscape with four women. We get to see how they struggle and cope with individual issues that are raised with these draconian new law.
We get to see how teenage pregnancy would be navigated, or divorce, or people struggling to conceive naturally.
One of my favourite narrative strands to read was the one of Gin. Call her what you want; whether it be a white witch, a medicine woman or a hermit. But Gin uses natural remedies to fix maladies. She has been known to sort out STI’s, miscarriages, viruses and bruising. But she is also the person that people turn to for secret abortions. And thanks to her medical treatments, she gets subjected to a modern-day witch trial.
Zumas’ writing style really gripped me. It took me a while to get into it, as it was so energetic to read. But what she did with building this not-to-distant America was very subtle. She used each character to highlight certain aspects of how these laws would affect people, and soon a very detailed picture was built up how these laws came to be.
I also found the breakup of different voices good. The characters are given titles; ‘The Wife’, ‘The Biographer’, ‘The Daughter’ and ‘The Mender’ and inbetween these sections, we also get to read snippets of what The Biographer is working on – the account of an Icelandic woman called Eivor, who became one of the key experts on polar ice, but was largely forgotten. These biography chunks distract the reader from the brutalities of dystopian America, but remind us of how women have been oppressed over the years.
I think Red Clocks spoke to me because it was political without being too dry. The topics are very current, and it shows how simple law changes could really screw up what power women have over their own bodies.
I think this is a very important book to read. And so far, I’d consider it the best book I’ve read in 2018.