Book Review: Daughters of the North

Daughters of the North

Hall, Sarah

Harper Perennial, New York, 2007

A book bought on size and shape rather than content, this was supposed to be my in-flight reading for an upcoming trip to Germany; I went to the bargain area at Elliot Bay and looked for something thin enough to be able to finish either on the flight over or at least before I left, and I could then leave with Inge.  So far so good. Unfortunately, one Saturday morning the weather was perfect for sitting down with a book and I decided to give this a head start.  A few hours later it was finished.

The basic story is an individual’s counter-cultural development.  The setting is the Lake District of England, a few decades in the future.  Through world events barely touched on in the story, English society has collapsed over a period of 7 or 8 years and the population has been herded into highly regulated and regimented urban centers; each center has it’s boundaries and no one is allowed to cross in or out.  Food and fuel are scarce, censorship is rife, and reproduction is controlled by a program of forced contraceptive implants in women.

After her contraceptive implant, a woman grows fed up with the system and sneaks away to join an isolated commune in the “wild” areas.  Formed well before the collapse by a group of women to be as self-sufficient as possible, it’s members refused to be collectivized and were more or less forgotten about; in the “new” system they do not officially exist – no ID’s no food rations, no health care,…. And as no one is allowed out of the urban areas they are essentially left to their own.

There is a road to a new self identity for the woman, an enigmatic leader, and a deep community; one of the women, formerly a nurse, removes the implant, and all in all she finds what she has been looking for and slowly begins to recover what it is to be human.  The news then comes that the king, the last vestige of the old order, has died and the new order is going to begin cracking down on the “outsiders.”  The commune is split whether to resist or not, and if they do resist, how?

For some, like the woman, the only option is to fight to the death to preserve what it is that she had finally recovered.

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