Red Clocks
Five women. One question. What is a woman for?In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro's best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or "mender," who brings all their fates together when she's arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

Red Clocks Details

TitleRed Clocks
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 16th, 2018
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316434812
Rating
GenreFiction, Feminism, Science Fiction, Dystopia

Red Clocks Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    I guess we can probably expect more of these weird feminist(?) dystopias in the wake of The Handmaid's Tale's Hulu series. Between this and the superhero-movie-turned-superhero-book trend, you can pretty much predict the new book trends based on what's popular on the big and small screens.Here, Zumas imagines a United States where the Personhood Amendment gives rights to unborn embryos, outlawing abortion and IVF (because said embryos cannot give consent). The Canadian government assist by erect I guess we can probably expect more of these weird feminist(?) dystopias in the wake of The Handmaid's Tale's Hulu series. Between this and the superhero-movie-turned-superhero-book trend, you can pretty much predict the new book trends based on what's popular on the big and small screens.Here, Zumas imagines a United States where the Personhood Amendment gives rights to unborn embryos, outlawing abortion and IVF (because said embryos cannot give consent). The Canadian government assist by erecting a figurative "Pink Wall" across the U.S.-Canadian border, meaning that they will capture and return any woman suspected of crossing the border for an abortion or IVF.It sounded fascinating to me. Given the political climate in the U.S. and the fervor of pro-life advocates, it is not a particularly implausible scenario. But, unfortunately, the amount of "literary" frills in Red Clocks made it almost impossible to enjoy (maybe that isn't the right word, but you know what I'm saying). It is such a painfully cerebral read, and it feels to me like a book of this kind has the greatest impact when you are pulled deep into the lives and horrors of the characters, not viewing them through a distant lens. Red Clocks would be a horror story for many women, including myself, and yet I felt so emotionally-distanced from the story and all four (or you could say five) perspectives.I have to assume the emotional distance is intentional. Zumas refers to the four main characters as "The Biographer" (Ro), "The Wife" (Susan), "The Daughter" (Mattie) and "The Mender" (Gin), with the fifth perspective being that of fictional explorer, Eivør Minervudottir, who "The Biographer" is writing a book about.Each of the main four are dealing with womanhood issues that are threatened by the new laws. Ro's perspective is easily the most palatable, though we still have to sit through a vaginal exam that unfolds like this: On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the shrill funk of an elderly cheese and one being no odor at all, how would he rank the smell of the biographer's vagina? How does it compare with the other vaginas barreling through this exam room, day in, day out, years of vaginas, a crowd of vulvic ghosts? Plenty of women don't shower beforehand, or are battling a yeast, or just happen naturally to stink in the nethers. Kalbfleisch has sniffed some ripe tangs in his time. Yum. Ro is trying desperately to conceive before a new law is introduced banning single parent families. Susan is something of a cliche depressed housewife, struggling with the dissatisfaction of staying home. Mattie is a teenager, pregnant, and unsure of what to do. Gin provides herbal remedies for abortion, amongst other things, and is the modern-day equivalent of a witch under the new amendment.Zumas experiments with different styles that change as we jump from one character to another. The narrative is fractured and messy - definitely more about experimental writing than telling a compelling and/or important story. I appreciate that this will be better suited to the kind of reader I am not.Overall, I felt the book was more concept and writing than characters and narrative structure. It really depends on what you're looking for, but I would personally expect a book with this intriguing a premise to contain a strong emotional pull and more of a plot. Oh well. I'm sure similar novels will be on the way.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
    January 1, 1970
    DNFed at 20%. I just couldn't get into it!
  • Lotte
    January 1, 1970
    Red Clocks can be described as a dystopian novel, but it feels entirely contemporary. Instead of creating a far-off dystopian society, Leni Zumas picks up on trends in our current political climate and thinks them through. What are the consequences of making abortion illegal in the US? How does a woman trying to have a baby on her own navigate a world in which in vitro fertilization is banned and only married couples are allowed to adopt? Where do larger concepts of woman- and motherhood come in Red Clocks can be described as a dystopian novel, but it feels entirely contemporary. Instead of creating a far-off dystopian society, Leni Zumas picks up on trends in our current political climate and thinks them through. What are the consequences of making abortion illegal in the US? How does a woman trying to have a baby on her own navigate a world in which in vitro fertilization is banned and only married couples are allowed to adopt? Where do larger concepts of woman- and motherhood come into play when discussing women's health?The author asks all these big questions in the grand scheme of things, while also maintaining a certain closeness to its four (arguably, five) main characters. She tells the story of multiple, very different women and weaves all these different narratives together beautifully. Another recent release that this book is destined to be compared to is The Power by Naomi Alderman, which I also read this year and really enjoyed, but which for me lacked a sort of emotional intimacy to its characters. Red Clocks however, reads like both a deeply intimate and emotional character study and a highly complex portrait of a near-future society. It's written incredibly lyrically and even though it's not necessarily a light read, I really enjoyed my time reading this! --- Thank you to Little, Brown for sending me an advanced reader's copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own though (obviously!).
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  • ☘Misericordia☘ ✺❂❤❣
    January 1, 1970
    All sorts of things are all over the place. I'm supposed to decipher it? Really? Overall this didn't feel like a readable material. At all. DNF. I don't want to torture myself with it anymore. It's probably very forward and front-looking and experimental and feminist and corresponds to a bunch of other buzz-words, still it's incomprehensible. It's like a bunch of books got intermixed along with some other material, probably (including oversized to-do lists, random thoughts and all sorts of note All sorts of things are all over the place. I'm supposed to decipher it? Really? Overall this didn't feel like a readable material. At all. DNF. I don't want to torture myself with it anymore. It's probably very forward and front-looking and experimental and feminist and corresponds to a bunch of other buzz-words, still it's incomprehensible. It's like a bunch of books got intermixed along with some other material, probably (including oversized to-do lists, random thoughts and all sorts of notes by different people). I'm sorry to say that. I really wanted this book to amount to something more than this. It seems that labias, vaginas, uteruses and pubic hair have gone amock and created this. Personally, I prefer all those parts to be attatched to humans, thinking ones, with personalities to show along with the rest. This is not the case here.I didn't like its disjointed style, references to 'biographer' as well as all the hype. The emotional part felt a tad tedious. Why clocks? Why red? Why that much stuff about some president-elect? Trump? Go to France. Why all the hype? Oh, gosh. I'm probably the most inattentive person in the world. NOW I get what is depicted on the cover. Ughhhhhh! What for, people? Why do we need to see stylised female parts on a book cover? There some deep motivation behind it? Half the population have these parts. Do men get to publish books with their parts on the cover? (*just an afterthought*)Q:Two years ago the United States Congress ratified the Personhood Amendment, which gives the constitutional right to life, liberty, and property to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Abortion is now illegal in all fifty states. Abortion providers can be charged with second-degree murder, abortion seekers with conspiracy to commit murder. In vitro fertilization, too, is federally banned, because the amendment outlaws the transfer of embryos from laboratory to uterus. (The embryos can’t give their consent to be moved.)She was just quietly teaching history when it happened. Woke up one morning to a president-elect she hadn’t voted for. This man thought women who miscarried should pay for funerals for the fetal tissue and thought a lab technician who accidentally dropped an embryo during in vitro transfer was guilty of manslaughter. She had heard there was glee on the lawns of her father’s Orlando retirement village. Marching in the streets of Portland. In Newville: brackish calm.Short of sex with some man she wouldn’t otherwise want to have sex with, Ovutran and lube-glopped vaginal wands and Dr. Kalbfleisch’s golden fingers is the only biological route left. Intrauterine insemination. At her age, not much better than a turkey baster.She was placed on the adoption wait-list three years ago. In her parent profile she earnestly and meticulously described her job, her apartment, her favorite books, her parents, her brother (drug addiction omitted), and the fierce beauty of Newville. She uploaded a photograph that made her look friendly but responsible, fun loving but stable, easygoing but upper middle class. The coral-pink cardigan she bought to wear in this photo she later threw into the clothing donation bin outside the church. ...Then the new president moved into the White House.The Personhood Amendment happened.One of the ripples in its wake: Public Law 116‑72.On January fifteenth—in less than three months—this law, also known as Every Child Needs Two, takes effect. Its mission: to restore dignity, strength, and prosperity to American families. Unmarried persons will be legally prohibited from adopting children. In addition to valid marriage licenses, all adoptions will require approval through a federally regulated agency, rendering private transactions criminal. (c)See below some of the parts that admittedly didn't make much sense.Q:“Either come and deal with him yourself,” calls the wife, “or fuck off.”Her husband stomps in, lifts the dustcover, sets the needle on the record, unleashes a bouncy guitar.John goes quiet, wetly heaving.“We are the dinosaurs, marching, marching.“We are the dinosaurs. Whaddaya think of that?”“The lesson he just learned,” says the wife, “is that if he screams long enough, he’ll get what he wants.”“Well, good. It’s a hard world.”“We are the dinosaurs, marching, marching.“We are the dinosaurs. We make the earth flat!”“Could you take him for a walk?” says the wife.“It’s raining,” says Didier.“His raincoat’s on the banister.”“He doesn’t look like he wants to go for a walk.”“Please do this one tiny thing,” she says.“I really don’t feel like it.”“I’m never alone.”“Well, me neither. I’m with those trous du cul all day, five days a week.” (c)Q:Herd crumbs into palm.Spray table.Wipe down table.Rinse cups and bowls.Put cups and bowls in dishwasher.Soak quinoa in bowl of water.Rinse and chop red bell peppers.Put strips in fridge.Rinse quinoa in sieve.Put clean, uncooked quinoa in fridge.Pour water from quinoa soaking into pot of ficus tree.Spray mist onto snake-like arms of Medusa’s head plant.Pull clothes out of dryer in basement.Fold clothes.Stack clothes in hamper.Leave hamper at bottom of stairs to second floor.Write laundry detergent on list in wallet.Plip, plip, plip, says the kitchen tap.Nobody on this hill even likes quinoa. ...Plip, plip, plip.As if Ro’s not having a kid or a book would make the wife’s life any better.As if the wife’s having a job would make Ro’s any worse.The rivalry is so shameful she can’t look at it.It flickers and hangs.It waits.(c)Q:“Watch the fuck out!” yells the rider, slowing and turning to look at the wife. “It’s bad enough you chose to procreate on a dying planet.”“Dick,” she calls after him.Admittedly she was not in the crosswalk.Admittedly she has added more people to this steaming pile. (c)Q:If this cycle fails, she isn’t having a biological child.To adopt from China, your body-mass index must be under 35, your annual household income over eighty thousand. Dollars.To adopt from Russia, your annual household income must be at least a hundred thousand. Dollars.To adopt from the United States—as of January 15—you must be married.Are you married, miss? (c)Q:The last time she had sex was almost two years ago, with Jupiter from meditation group. “Your cunt smells yummy,” he said, extending the first syllable of “yummy” into a ghastly warble. Wiped semen from the dark swirls of his belly hair and said, “You sure you’re not getting attached?”“Scout’s honor,” said the biographer. (c)Q:She finishes the pineapple.Swallows the rest of the water.Tells her ovaries: For your patience, for your eggs, I thank you.Tells her uterus: May you be happy.Her blood: May you be safe.Her brain: May you be free from suffering. (c)Q:If she constructs a solid argument, he’ll be convinced.But then you’d actually have to go to counseling with him.Which might work!Which would be the whole point.To feel okay again. Even good.To stop her throat from hurting when Bex asks “Do you and Daddy love each other?”To stop reading online articles about the maladaptive coping mechanisms of kids from broken homes.To stop brokenhomebrokenhomebrokenhome from reeling in her head.To stop staring at the guardrails. (c)
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  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    I have mixed feelings about “Red Clocks”.......disturbing issues ......disturbing ‘choice’ vagina dialogues...yet all in the context of brilliance- timely & important. My review reflects my thoughts and feelings which came from reading “Red Clocks”. I admire the creative writing style: seriously I do, but it was challenging for me to feel a close intimate connection to the women and their stories. I wanted to feel them deeper in my gut - not just intellectualize their situations. I did a few I have mixed feelings about “Red Clocks”.......disturbing issues ......disturbing ‘choice’ vagina dialogues...yet all in the context of brilliance- timely & important. My review reflects my thoughts and feelings which came from reading “Red Clocks”. I admire the creative writing style: seriously I do, but it was challenging for me to feel a close intimate connection to the women and their stories. I wanted to feel them deeper in my gut - not just intellectualize their situations. I did a few times - like when at the border of Canada, one woman was being ridiculously questioned on why she was visiting. I felt my emotions of anger begin to rise about THIS ENTIRE POSSIBILITY. WOMEN’S RIGHTS A MAJOR RISK? REALLY? WOULD WE EVER ***REALLY*** TURN BACK THE CLOCKS?It’s just so hard to believe our world could feel SO STRONG against women’s rights to the extremes presented in this book. AS NO FRICKEN WAY must this story EVER BE REAL.But then again.... I never thought we’d have the President we do in our country today either. Life doesn’t feel super duper secure at the moment. So the best reason to read this book IMO... is to wake up our own complacency sluggishness. It wasn’t too many years ago when I was ‘shocked’ and upset when “YES on 8”passed in California. We voted against Gay Marriage. I had been watching this poll early on and was worried. I kept telling Paul... “I’m concerned”. And like most liberals in California.. Paul was complacent in the beginning as in: “don’t be silly, nothing to be concerned about -this is the Bay Area of Gay Pride”. But soon.. the reality was waking voters up - but by then it was too late. The only people working their ass off - NOT COMPLACENT- were people fighting like hell to make ‘sure’ gays would ‘not’ be allowed to marry. It was a very sad day — literally shocking - I grieved the day gays lost that vote. BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD... to pull up our boots and GET TO WORK.Thankfully... justice has finally won!!!Many of our Gay friends are married - and all Gays have the right to marry in California now. But it was the ‘complacency’ which was a source of the problem.So... how does what I write relate to this book?SAME THING.Are we too complacent to think that we will never turn back the clocks? Do we want to see abortion rights taken away in every state in America?In this dystopian world Vitro fertilization is banned...and a Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and and property to every embryo. Kudos to the author for this book -Kudos to the publisher too- The time has come when this book has never been more important to take serious than today!!!Did I love everything about this book? NoWas it easy to read for me? NoAm I glad I read it? YESDo I hope this book supports me in taking action when needed? YES..This book was a painful shot in the arm - a needed booster shot! To be honest ... I’ve signed more petitions this year - for justice in our world .. than many years past. We no longer can sit back and think our voice and vote doesn’t make a difference. High Five for “Red Clocks”!Much appreciation to the author, Leni Zumas. The energy it had to take to write this book is amazing.
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  • Ron Charles
    January 1, 1970
    “Red Clocks” might sound like a dystopian novel, but plenty of conservative politicians are plotting to make it a work of nonfiction. In fact, the author, Leni Zumas, has said that she drew the most frightening details of her story’s misogynistic world from “actual proposals” by men who are currently in control of our government.Such is the state of affairs in the early 21st century. Feminist writers of speculative fiction don’t need the bizarre rituals of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 classic, “The Ha “Red Clocks” might sound like a dystopian novel, but plenty of conservative politicians are plotting to make it a work of nonfiction. In fact, the author, Leni Zumas, has said that she drew the most frightening details of her story’s misogynistic world from “actual proposals” by men who are currently in control of our government.Such is the state of affairs in the early 21st century. Feminist writers of speculative fiction don’t need the bizarre rituals of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 classic, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” or even the fantastical elements of Naomi Alderman’s terrific recent novel, “The Power.” Bridles designed for women’s bodies are already hanging in legislators’ barns, just waiting for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to die.The ordinariness of the world that Zumas imagines is perhaps the most unsettling aspect of “Red Clocks,” her second novel. The story is set in a small Oregon town in a future that Mike Pence can almost see if he stands on his pew. The Personhood Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has nullified Roe v. . . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...To watch the Totally Hip Video Book Review of this novel, click here:https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/...
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    ”The sea does not ask permission or wait for instruction. It doesn’t suffer from not knowing what on earth, exactly, it is meant to do. Today its walls are high, white lather torn, crashing hard at the sea stacks. ‘Angry sea,’ people say, but to the biographer the ascribing of human feeling to a body so inhumanly itself is wrong. The water heaves up for reasons they don’t have names for.” ”She was just quietly teaching history when it happened. Woke up one morning to a president-elect she had ”The sea does not ask permission or wait for instruction. It doesn’t suffer from not knowing what on earth, exactly, it is meant to do. Today its walls are high, white lather torn, crashing hard at the sea stacks. ‘Angry sea,’ people say, but to the biographer the ascribing of human feeling to a body so inhumanly itself is wrong. The water heaves up for reasons they don’t have names for.” ”She was just quietly teaching history when it happened. Woke up one morning to a president-elect she hadn’t voted for.” ”The Personhood Amendment happened. “One of the ripples in its wake: Public Law 116-72.“On January fifteenth—in less than three months—this law, also known as Every Child Needs Two, take effect. Its mission: to restore dignity, strength, and prosperity to American families.Unmarried persons will be legally prohibited from adopting children. In addition to valid marriage licenses, all adoptions will require approval through a federally regulated agency, rendering private transactions criminal.”We see this story unfold through the eyes of four women, The Biographer – Ro, who is writing a book about Eivør Mínervudottír, The Daughter – Mattie, a student, adopted, with dreams of attending an esteemed math school finds herself pregnant around the time her boyfriend has moved on to another girl, The Wife – Susan, whose thoughts are about her dissatisfaction with her life, her marriage, the distance she feels between what she has and what she wants, and The Mender – Gin, a woman who the townspeople think of as a bit of a hermit who might be a witch, a woman who lives alone in the forest and provides “cures” for ailments and assorted other troubles, for those who come seeking. ”Start from the beginning. Except there is no beginning. Can the biographer remember first thinking, feeling, or deciding she wanted to be someone’s mother? The original moment of longing to let a bulb of lichen grow in her until it came out human? The longing is widely endorsed. Legislators, aunts, and advertisers approve. Which makes the longing, she thinks, a little suspicious. “Babies once were abstractions. They were Maybe I do, but not now. The biographer used to sneer at talk of biological deadlines, believing the topic of baby craziness to be crap for lifestyle magazines. Women who worried about ticking clocks were the same women who traded salmon-loaf recipes and asked their husbands to clean the gutters. She was not and never would be one of them.“Then suddenly, she was one of them. Not the gutters, but the clock.” This is a dystopian story, but more than anything it seems to be a story that reminds us what can happen when we aren’t actively engaged, voicing our opinions in ways that matter regarding the decisions made by those in power. But… while this has a powerful message, and occasionally beautiful writing, connecting to the characters and the story wasn’t always easy. This wasn’t so much an “enjoyable” read as one I appreciated the reminder of the ultimate cost of complacency. ”If wrecked in this vessel, we wreck together.” Many thanks, once again, to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    I could go on, and on, and on, and on about this book, but really the most important thing I can say is that this is now an all-time favorite. It is absolutely brilliant, and I expect to see it not only on "Best Books of the Year" lists, but also "Best Books of the Decade." It's that good.We follow five different women whose lives interweave in a small coastal town in Oregon. Their world, though very similar to our own, has passed a "Personhood Amendment" recognizing fetuses as full citizens. Th I could go on, and on, and on, and on about this book, but really the most important thing I can say is that this is now an all-time favorite. It is absolutely brilliant, and I expect to see it not only on "Best Books of the Year" lists, but also "Best Books of the Decade." It's that good.We follow five different women whose lives interweave in a small coastal town in Oregon. Their world, though very similar to our own, has passed a "Personhood Amendment" recognizing fetuses as full citizens. The most obvious repercussion of this is that abortion is now illegal, but Zumas dives deep into the actual implications of such an amendment. Women and girls who seek abortion are tried with conspiracy to commit murder. In vitro fertilization is also illegal. International relations are affected as women cross borders with the goals of both ending pregnancies and becoming pregnant. Through the lens of the five women we follow, Zumas examines the repercussions what becomes of human nature when you deny women agency over their own bodies. As a backdrop for the rest of the narrative, it's perfectly executed.Zumas's writing is a bit experimental, and it works so, so well. It took me a while to pick up on exactly what Zumas is doing, but she often omits the subjects of sentences and writes using fragments. In every case I could see, the grammatical subject was also the subject of that particular chapter, which is to say one of the five women. Much of the book is dedicated to the varied ways in which these women don't have control over their own lives, don't have agency, and by removing them as the subjects of sentences, Zumas creates a beautiful syntactical construction that mirrors the themes of the book. Little things like this, small but brilliant writing choices, are scattered throughout the novel.I started this review by saying I could go on basically forever about how much I love this book. I'll cut myself off, and just say that Red Clocks is gorgeously, boldly written. It's timely. It's powerful. It's one of the best books I've ever read.
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  • Jenna
    January 1, 1970
    This novel about very different women making hard personal choices and finding ways to persevere on their own terms, whatever those may be, is maybe the most healing and hopeful thing I've read since the election.
  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    I can see why this is getting so much coverage after the recent tv success of The Handmaid's Tale coinciding with a veritable flood of news coverage that has highlighted the position of women as second class citizens all over the world. Inevitably, books which use this kind of near-future/dystopia to address contemporary issues, eg The Power, are going to be the next big thing. The problem is that that's how this book feels, like it was written as an experiment to fill a publishing hole- while t I can see why this is getting so much coverage after the recent tv success of The Handmaid's Tale coinciding with a veritable flood of news coverage that has highlighted the position of women as second class citizens all over the world. Inevitably, books which use this kind of near-future/dystopia to address contemporary issues, eg The Power, are going to be the next big thing. The problem is that that's how this book feels, like it was written as an experiment to fill a publishing hole- while the issues it tackles are important, it has no real heart. It's experimental style manages to be both cliche and irritating- the choppy sentences, the casual formatting, the loose connections apparently creating a cohesive whole. The women even start off being unnamed, but that overused means of creating a nonperson or every-person is then quickly undermined by them being identified by other characters. The women are, for the most part, bland and conform to the stereotypes this kind of apparently feminist writing is supposed to combat- the unappreciated wife, the spinster school marm, the witch put on trial for witchcraft? Perhaps their choices in this new world are supposed to set them apart, but none of their challenges could be linked to the dystopian theme of the book in any real sense- their conflicts are all happening right now to women in apparently civilised, enlightened countries, so what's the point in creating this near-future world? The struggle for abortion? The cost of IVF? Beaten or undervalued wives? 'Different' women being singled out for abuse? There's absolutely nothing new added here, no particular point made, nothing that hasn't been said before in better books. I mean, just read The Handmaid's Tale for a start. ARC via Netgalley
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    I circled around this book for a long time, not wanting to read another dystopian breeder novel. But I eventually decided to try it, and I'm glad I did. Told through multiple perspectives (all female), this is a near future dystopia with very probably legislation that outlaws abortion, IVF, and adoption outside of straight married couples for the entire country. The female characters are known first as these new archetypes - the Mender, the Wife, the Biographer, the Daughter, etc. As the story u I circled around this book for a long time, not wanting to read another dystopian breeder novel. But I eventually decided to try it, and I'm glad I did. Told through multiple perspectives (all female), this is a near future dystopia with very probably legislation that outlaws abortion, IVF, and adoption outside of straight married couples for the entire country. The female characters are known first as these new archetypes - the Mender, the Wife, the Biographer, the Daughter, etc. As the story unfolds we learn their names and stories from their chapters but also the chapters of others, and you start to see how their lives and stories interrelate. I had one question - the partner of The Mender, is he known as a different name to someone else? He was the only one I hadn't connected up. I thought maybe I missed something.Bonus points, for me, for Oregonian setting, Oregonian author (teaches at Portland State!), mention of PCOS, and one point which was even more chilling because of recent legislation in my current state of South Carolina, which hasn't outlawed adopted by non married couples, exactly, but the governor signed an order giving preference to married couples, and not just married ones, but married CHRISTIAN ones. Dystopia is now....
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    My thoughts on this are all jumbled up; I thought I would adore this and it is not a bad book by any means but it took me three months to finish this. I could just not get on board and I am not quite sure where my problems lie.I love the plausibility of the world Leni Zumas has created here, it feels organic in a way that is scary and frustrating. Set in the not so distant future, reproductive rights have been severely limited: abortion is illegal in all and every circumstances (and in fact cons My thoughts on this are all jumbled up; I thought I would adore this and it is not a bad book by any means but it took me three months to finish this. I could just not get on board and I am not quite sure where my problems lie.I love the plausibility of the world Leni Zumas has created here, it feels organic in a way that is scary and frustrating. Set in the not so distant future, reproductive rights have been severely limited: abortion is illegal in all and every circumstances (and in fact considered murder), in-vitro fertilization is unavailable, and soon adoption will only be possible for straight, married couples. Told from five different perspectives, Zumas shows the far-reaching consequences these changes to the law might have. Her world is plausible and aggrevating and often feels contemporary rather than speculative.My main problem were the characters that often felt underdeveloped and not particularly fleshed-out. As they are often refered to by a descriptor (“the mother”, “the daughter” etc.) this was probably on purpose: these things that are happening do not happen to these women because of who they are but rather because of the way the social structure is set up. Intellectually, I get, emotionally, I did not care for their stories at all. There was a large chunk in the middle that did not work for me because of that distance. I do think that the storylines converged nicely in the end and that the character development if slight did work.I enjoyed Leni Zumas’ particular prose a whole lot and thought it added a nice layer of urgency and intimacy to an otherwise distant book. Her sentences are choppy but have a nice rhythm to them.I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and HarperCollins UK in exchange for an honest review.You can find this review and other thoughts on books on my blog.
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  • Janelle
    January 1, 1970
    RED CLOCKS by Leni Zumas - Thank you so much to Little, Brown and Company for providing my free copy - all opinions are my own. This novel is outstanding! I have not read another book like this. Yes, it’s feminist—in the sense that these women rule their own lives within the confines of the law. Yes, it’s dystopian—in the sense that these same laws are not in effect in the United States today. But, this story was the most realistic dystopian novel I’ve ever read. Red Clocks takes place in the ne RED CLOCKS by Leni Zumas - Thank you so much to Little, Brown and Company for providing my free copy - all opinions are my own. This novel is outstanding! I have not read another book like this. Yes, it’s feminist—in the sense that these women rule their own lives within the confines of the law. Yes, it’s dystopian—in the sense that these same laws are not in effect in the United States today. But, this story was the most realistic dystopian novel I’ve ever read. Red Clocks takes place in the near future in the fictional town of Newville, near Salem Oregon. It is written from four main female perspectives: the biographer, the mender, the daughter, and the wife. The Personhood Amendment had just been passed, granting constitutional rights to a fertilized egg at the time of conception. Because of this law, abortions and in vitro fertilization have been banned as the fetus cannot give consent to such procedures. Also, a new law will soon go into effect called Every Child Needs Two, which only allows couples to adopt. As you read, you observe how these women deal with these laws as they apply to their own lives. I enjoyed reading about each of these women as they led their very different lives. The biographer is one of my favorite characters; she is witty but at the same time very sad and I was able to empathize with her greatly. The mender (aka “The Witch”), was another favorite of mine, as she uses her herbal remedies to help women that sought medical help. The daughter, a teenager in high school, and the wife, who has two children but feels trapped in an unhappy marriage, were very fleshed out and added to the overall story. I enjoyed the novel’s unique structure including the interludes of the biographer’s novel. The character development is excellent. The more I read, slowly but surely, the more I became invested in each character. I love that you start out just knowing these women’s roles in society rather than their names, but over the course of the story, you learn who they are and how they connect to one another. To me, Red Clocks has a very Atwoodian feel only because it seems so well researched. I got the same eerie feeling when I read books like The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake: the feeling, if you really thought about it, that THIS COULD HAPPEN. Zumas definitely did her homework. I really appreciated the complexity of the story; it not only focused on women’s rights but also motherhood, identity, and fertility issues. This novel is brilliant and extremely relevant in today’s world. I recommend this book to everyone but especially people who love dystopia, feminist reads, or who are just curious how the world would look if women lost their reproductive rights. You NEED to read this!
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  • Trudie
    January 1, 1970
    Well, I am going to admit I was a little skeptical of this book going in. Any book that draws comparisons to The Handmaids Tale is bound to come off second best in my experience. Last years "female dystopia" de jour The Power just didn't do it for me, so I was a little worried for Red Clocks.However, I needn't have worried, Red Clocks is a beautifully written, gloriously weird and at times funny character study of five women. This world that Zumas has created feels very much like the world we li Well, I am going to admit I was a little skeptical of this book going in. Any book that draws comparisons to The Handmaids Tale is bound to come off second best in my experience. Last years "female dystopia" de jour The Power just didn't do it for me, so I was a little worried for Red Clocks.However, I needn't have worried, Red Clocks is a beautifully written, gloriously weird and at times funny character study of five women. This world that Zumas has created feels very much like the world we live in. In fact it was a good few chapters before I recognised anything obviously speculative. Even a cursory look through the news reveals Zumas didn't have to imagine too hard to find the antecedents to the Personhood Amendment and The Every Child Needs Two campaign that form the background politics to this novel. This book is so good precisely because it is not dismissible science fiction but rather feels more like a cautionary tale of what could happen tomorrow if we don't keep a close watch on things. Just read this recent chilling opinion piece from the NY Times to see just how close to reality this novel actually is.All this makes this book sound like a polemic on reproductive rights but the experience of reading it is much more nuanced character study. It presents the interlinked stories of five very different woman in a world where reproductive choice is restricted. The politics of this is deftly referenced almost as an aside. It is never suggested that one particular path is easier or of less consequence than another but the book does an exceptional job of highlighting the importance of individual choice.You may not like all these woman or agree with their actions but it is hard not to love how Zumas wrote these characters. She has a fantastic way with description and voice, its at once humorous and deeply despairing. The writing is quite lyrical and the way the story is told may not be to everyone's taste, it is quite an eclectic mixture of reproductive biology, herbal remedies, polar exploration, boiled puffin recipes and one too many pubic hairs. However, I thought it was just perfect and I spent two days with it unable to put it down. Don't dismiss this as a dystopia, this is a book that is begging you to pay attention to what is going on in the here and now.
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    Red Clocks is a quietly dystopian novel. There has been no war, no plague, no machine gunning down of the senate. Instead, the world Zumas creates is eerily similar to our own. All that has changed is a pro-life government signed a bill into law while the majority of the country sat at home and thought it could never happen. Sound familiar? Uncomfortable yet? Red Clocks feels eerily possible and that possibility is the novel’s strength. Speculative fiction is best when you believe we could take Red Clocks is a quietly dystopian novel. There has been no war, no plague, no machine gunning down of the senate. Instead, the world Zumas creates is eerily similar to our own. All that has changed is a pro-life government signed a bill into law while the majority of the country sat at home and thought it could never happen. Sound familiar? Uncomfortable yet? Red Clocks feels eerily possible and that possibility is the novel’s strength. Speculative fiction is best when you believe we could take one wrong turn and end up there. One of the first things you notice while reading Red Clocks is the writing. It is disjointed, beautiful, and lyrical. Leni Zumas’s words don’t flow they way you expect them to and, though slightly uncomfortable at first, the end result it wonderful and surprising. I underlined countless sentences and dogeared dozens of pages because I was so thrilled by her unpredictable words.“She doesn't want to skip the Math Academy.(She kicks Nouri’s gothsickle ass at calculus.)Or to push it out. She doesn't want to wonder; and she would. The kid too—Why wasn’t I kept? Was his mother too young? Too old? Too hot? Too cold? She doesn’t want him wondering, or herself wondering.Are you mine?And she doesn’t want to worry she’ll be found.Selfish. But she has a self. Why not use it?”Dystopian and speculative fiction aspects aside, Red Clocks is primarily a story about the lives of four interweaving women who want four very different things. The Biographer desperately wants to have a child. The Wife wants out of her failing marriage. The Daughter wants to go to the Math Academy. The Mender wants to live a quiet life alone with her animals. I LOVED all of these women so much. They are strong and flawed, generous and selfish, loving and spiteful. Despite the labels given to them, they are each fully fleshed out with deep inner lives. You will find no caricatures here. As a woman who has always been content on her own, I identified so strongly with the Biographer and the Mender. Both are characters who enjoy being alone and are not looking for a relationship to complete their lives. It was so empowering! I cannot think of another time in literature where women aren’t at least peripherally looking for a relationship. In Red Clocks, the women state firmly that they are fine on their own, thank you very much. In fact, there is no romantic storyline in this novel at all. That’s pretty revolutionary on its own. Red Clocks is a beautiful novel about what it’s like to be a woman in a world that takes away your choice. It is a novel about women finding their voices and finding their purpose. I loved every single page. Highly recommend!!!
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    How weird to be reading this book on my least-favorite commuting day of the year, when the annual March for Life is held in DC and I have to resist the urge to yell at people to get the eff out of my way on the Metro. This is getting billed as a dystopian novel to cash in on Handmaid hysteria, but it's really not that much of a stretch from our current environment, given that abortion access is being so severely curtailed in many states. The leaders of Zumas' world, though, have taken it a step How weird to be reading this book on my least-favorite commuting day of the year, when the annual March for Life is held in DC and I have to resist the urge to yell at people to get the eff out of my way on the Metro. This is getting billed as a dystopian novel to cash in on Handmaid hysteria, but it's really not that much of a stretch from our current environment, given that abortion access is being so severely curtailed in many states. The leaders of Zumas' world, though, have taken it a step farther and banned in-vitro fertilization and are about to ban adoption by single parents. These three laws complicate the lives of four women in rural Oregon: Ro, an unmarried biographer and high school teacher desperate to have a child despite her potential infertility; Mattie, a teenager who is stunned and frightened to realize that she is pregnant; Susan, the unhappy housewife and mother of two ill-behaved young children; and Gin, a natural healer who is looked at with skepticism by the townspeople who think of her as a witch. For the most part, this is a thoughtful novel that examines the concept of motherhood and women's identity from several perspectives. I really liked the central conceit, especially that Zumas added in several unexpected wrinkles, such as in-vitro and adoption bans, and that she was willing to explore these wrinkles from so many angles. While the idea that abortion has been outlawed is dystopian might elicit a knee-jerk negative response from readers on the more conservative side of the spectrum, there are moments in this book that acknowledge the other side, particularly when it comes to Ro's fertility struggles: she, for example, angrily ruminates on how unfair it is that Mattie has this thing she wants (a pregnancy) and is willing to destroy it. There's a lot going on in this book, though, and not all of it works. While I liked the detached, disjointed writing style that Zumas employs, referring to her female protagonists by their title -- The Biographer, The Wife, The Daughter, and The Mender -- to highlight how difficult it can be for women to define themselves as individuals, I do think Zumas could have leaned into this theme a little harder and plumbed the women's stories with a little more depth. There are so many books that do lean in that way, including The Handmaid's Tale, of course, but also, more recently, Forty Rooms and Hausfrau. In comparison, Red Clocks feels more about playing with experimental writing styles as opposed to trying to make a strong statement on the topics. So I enjoyed this book, but it didn't leave me feeling overly engaged or enthusiastic about it. 3.5 stars.
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    It took me a bit to figure out how this book worked. But once I did, I liked it. It's a story about a VERY possible near future where single women can't adopt, or get in vitro, and no one can get safe abortions because they're illegal. So basically, it's the US pre-1973. And that is frightening.
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  • Colleen Fauchelle
    January 1, 1970
    This is a story of 5 woman there day to day life, their dreams and goals, there desires and struggles. The chapter headings are The Daughter, The Mender, The Wife, The Biographer, The explorer, It shows what they are seems more important that who they are. You only find out their names by other characters in the book using them. It's a book about what makes a family and it is saying you need two adults to have a child. It also talks about the rights of the ity bity baby in its first few weeks of This is a story of 5 woman there day to day life, their dreams and goals, there desires and struggles. The chapter headings are The Daughter, The Mender, The Wife, The Biographer, The explorer, It shows what they are seems more important that who they are. You only find out their names by other characters in the book using them. It's a book about what makes a family and it is saying you need two adults to have a child. It also talks about the rights of the ity bity baby in its first few weeks of being conceived and the new law that protects that baby. I am a Christian and am for life so I agreed with the law in this story. But when you take something away that is in the 'light' and is safe for the woman, it then becomes done in the dark and with that comes danger. You can't stop people from having sex but maybe there should be more emphasize on protection during the act. But none of us are perfect and we need to love and forgive ourselves and others. I like the way that the story ties each woman into the story and the conections they have with each other. It shows the choices we make may mean the laying down of other choices- Babies verses having a career, being tied down to living in freedom, and accepting thoes choices or changing direction. I liked each of these woman following along in their lives and seeing their joys and heartaches their fears and sorrows and their struggles and imperfections. It's who we are, we are woman and we are important, we need to encourage each other and support each other through the ups and downs in our lives.We are woman hear us roar.
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  • Brierly
    January 1, 1970
    A note: I received my M.A. from Portland State (where Leni teaches) and while I do not know her personally, many of my M.F.A. colleagues speak highly of her. Red Clocks is a dystopian novel, though I could see this future happening with a few wrong turns. Similar to The Handmaid's Tale, women find themselves in an inequitable society where the Personhood Amendment has granted rights to embryos, IVF is illegal, and of course, abortion is universally banned.This novel features an experimental writ A note: I received my M.A. from Portland State (where Leni teaches) and while I do not know her personally, many of my M.F.A. colleagues speak highly of her. Red Clocks is a dystopian novel, though I could see this future happening with a few wrong turns. Similar to The Handmaid's Tale, women find themselves in an inequitable society where the Personhood Amendment has granted rights to embryos, IVF is illegal, and of course, abortion is universally banned.This novel features an experimental writing style, which may not be for everyone. I enjoyed the writing style once I got used to it after a few chapters. The chapters rotate between The Biographer (Ro), The Wife (Susan), The Daughter (Mattie), and the Mender; all characters are referred to by their first names in conversation. This approach reminds me of favorite dystopian reads--I find it in line with the genre.
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  • Lark Benobi
    January 1, 1970
    Red Clocks was one of those rare, very-pretty-good reads for me. Zumas creates women with lovely endearing individuality and humaneness. I was concerned for their welfare and wanted them to turn out to have happy lives, almost to the degree that I feel about characters in Kent Haruf's novels. On the downside the characters's story arcs were not particularly interesting and their reactions to menstrual-related events never strayed much beyond the obvious, with the exception of the mender, whom I Red Clocks was one of those rare, very-pretty-good reads for me. Zumas creates women with lovely endearing individuality and humaneness. I was concerned for their welfare and wanted them to turn out to have happy lives, almost to the degree that I feel about characters in Kent Haruf's novels. On the downside the characters's story arcs were not particularly interesting and their reactions to menstrual-related events never strayed much beyond the obvious, with the exception of the mender, whom I adored. Too bad her dramatic arc was wrapped up in a B movie plot. The person who designed this cover should get a medal. Brava--I'm assuming you are a woman--forgive me if you're not, and my admiration for you has grown all the more strong--and shame on Hachette for not giving you a named credit on the jacket you designed.
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  • Book of the Month
    January 1, 1970
    The Handmaid's Tale for Our GenerationBy Judge Cristina ArreolaDon’t let the pink and red cover fool you. Red Clocks is no romance or “beach read.” Instead, it is a frightening dystopian novel about what happens when politicians successfully manage to push back on women’s reproductive rights little by little, until none are left at all.In Lena Zumas’s near-future America, The Personhood Amendment has made both abortion and in-vitro fertilization illegal, and the Every Child Needs Two Act is abou The Handmaid's Tale for Our GenerationBy Judge Cristina ArreolaDon’t let the pink and red cover fool you. Red Clocks is no romance or “beach read.” Instead, it is a frightening dystopian novel about what happens when politicians successfully manage to push back on women’s reproductive rights little by little, until none are left at all.In Lena Zumas’s near-future America, The Personhood Amendment has made both abortion and in-vitro fertilization illegal, and the Every Child Needs Two Act is about to make it impossible for unmarried people to adopt children. The story is set in a small town in Oregon, where four women cope with the weight of these laws and the equally-crushing magnitude of societal expectations. There’s Ro, an unmarried writer and teacher desperate to have children but who cannot get pregnant. There’s Mattie, an adopted teenager who has accidentally become pregnant and is desperate for an abortion. Susan is a mother of two children who fantasizes about leaving her husband. And finally, Gin is a young “witch” who offers herbal cures to women in need of gynecological help, including abortions. Their four lives converge and intertwine in strange ways, especially when a heated trial breaks out in their town, forcing them all to grapple with this new world order.The true power of Red Clocks lies in the distance the author creates between the women and the reader, in how she intentionally refrains from portraying their emotional states. But then, we don’t need the author to explain how they’re are feeling, do we? The things they feel—the desire to choose or postpone motherhood, the desire to seek fulfillment beyond motherhood, and the fear of realizing that these decisions are no longer yours—are endemic to all women. The takeaway from Zumas’s book is clear: There is no perfect way to be a woman, but it should every woman’s right to choose her own path.As I flipped the final pages of this novel, I began to contemplate how I would describe it in this review—dystopian? That is the obvious choice, and it fits. But to me, it reads a bit like horror.Read more at https://www.bookofthemonth.com/red-cl...
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  • Shelby
    January 1, 1970
    A few months ago, I read about this upcoming title and had to have it immediately. Luckily through NetGalley I received an ARC. This book is definitely worth the hype and I hope its popularity continues to grow exponentially. Due to the subject matter, Red Clocks is reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale and other dystopian feminist works; male-supremacist legislation, reversal of Roe v. Wade, illegal abortions, etc. Yet, Zumas succeeds at writing an original, thought-provoking story that deeply res A few months ago, I read about this upcoming title and had to have it immediately. Luckily through NetGalley I received an ARC. This book is definitely worth the hype and I hope its popularity continues to grow exponentially. Due to the subject matter, Red Clocks is reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale and other dystopian feminist works; male-supremacist legislation, reversal of Roe v. Wade, illegal abortions, etc. Yet, Zumas succeeds at writing an original, thought-provoking story that deeply resonates with our current state of affairs. Red Clocks will stay with me for a long time. I personally loved the biographer's frame story about the Faroese arctic explorer Eivør Mínervudottír and felt that it added an interesting layer of perspective to the novel. The windows into her life really piqued my interest, and I'm having a hard time finding any information about her, which is ironic (if she was in fact a real historical figure).*Mínervudottír wasn't based on an actual person. This is a really interesting BookPage interview with Zumas about Red Clocks https://bookpage.com/interviews/22184...
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  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    When I recently heard that Leni Zumas’ new novel “Red Clocks” was partly inspired by Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves” I felt I had to read it. I love Woolf’s poetically-charged novel so much and it’s lived with me for so many years I feel like it’s a part of my body and soul. The plot of Zumas’ novel doesn’t directly relate to Woolf’s writing but it gives several nods to it and pays tribute to her predecessor so part of the great pleasure of reading this book was knowing I was in the company of a fe When I recently heard that Leni Zumas’ new novel “Red Clocks” was partly inspired by Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves” I felt I had to read it. I love Woolf’s poetically-charged novel so much and it’s lived with me for so many years I feel like it’s a part of my body and soul. The plot of Zumas’ novel doesn’t directly relate to Woolf’s writing but it gives several nods to it and pays tribute to her predecessor so part of the great pleasure of reading this book was knowing I was in the company of a fellow Woolf lover. The epigraph of this novel is a line from Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse”. Set on the western US coast it portrays the interweaving lives of four different women in a time when abortion is outlawed in America and legislation is coming into place that requires any child who is adopted to have two parents. Sadly, it’s easy to imagine such regressive laws being put into effect with the current administration. Chapters are headed by a part that these four different women play in the story: the biographer, the mender, the daughter and the wife. So the novel is partly about the way that women can become defined by their roles in life and how society brackets women within a specific function. Of course, their characters are really much more complex than these parts and the story dramatically shows the way women can work together under a political regime that seeks to suppress and control them.Read my full review of Red Clocks by Leni Zumas on LonesomeReader
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    Damn, I really wanted to love this book. The premise is obviously timely and appropriate, and the book had a lot of hype. But I just didn't care for it. The unnamed character thing seemed unnecessary. It reminded me of Annihilation - four women characters, all unnamed (I can hear the conversation now: "Hey! Instead of a BIOLOGIST, let's have your main character be a BIOGRAPHER!") and I really hope having a bunch of unnamed women characters is not going to become a trend in near-future dystopian Damn, I really wanted to love this book. The premise is obviously timely and appropriate, and the book had a lot of hype. But I just didn't care for it. The unnamed character thing seemed unnecessary. It reminded me of Annihilation - four women characters, all unnamed (I can hear the conversation now: "Hey! Instead of a BIOLOGIST, let's have your main character be a BIOGRAPHER!") and I really hope having a bunch of unnamed women characters is not going to become a trend in near-future dystopian lit. And actually, the characters did have names, but only sometimes were they referred to by them - which caused me confusion when suddenly someone was "Susan" and I was like "Susan? Who?" There must be some symbolism here that I'm missing as to why they were referred to by name at some parts but not others, but I can't figure it out.Honestly, the book is more conceptual than story-driven, and I think that focus made me less interested in what was going on. It's great that we are getting literature in response to the government's attacks on women; hopefully something else will come along with fleshed out characters who I can actually care about.
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  • Alice Lippart
    January 1, 1970
    Incredibly interesting topic. Loved the characters and the writing style (although I see how not everyone would love it).
  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    “Red Clocks” by Leni ZumasI had heard about this novel as part of the speculation leading up to the 2018 Women’s Prize – and was surprised not to see it longlisted. My perception was that it was a dystopian and political novel – very much in the spirit of The Handmaid's Tale (or The Power).In fact the book surprised me in a number of ways:Firstly in how little a “stretch” there was to the alternative world portrayed; Secondly by how autobiographical it was; Thirdly in being at heart more about r “Red Clocks” by Leni ZumasI had heard about this novel as part of the speculation leading up to the 2018 Women’s Prize – and was surprised not to see it longlisted. My perception was that it was a dystopian and political novel – very much in the spirit of The Handmaid's Tale (or The Power).In fact the book surprised me in a number of ways:Firstly in how little a “stretch” there was to the alternative world portrayed; Secondly by how autobiographical it was; Thirdly in being at heart more about relationships between women explored within a patriarchal/misogynistic world rather than just exploring the structure of that patriarchy; Fourthly by the wide (perhaps too wide) range of influences and ideas the author brings to the book.The political set up of the book is established early on. Two years ago the US Congress ratified the Personhood Amendment, which gives the constitutional right to life, liberty and property to a fertilised egg at the moment of conception. Abortion is now legal in all fifty states. Abortion is now illegal in all fifty states. Abortion providers can be charged with second degree murder, abortion seekers with conspiracy to commit murder. In vitro fertilisation is …federally banned ….In less than three months .. [the] Every Child Needs Two [law] takes affect .. Unmarried persons will be legally prohibited from adopting children. In addition Canada has agreed to the Pink Wall – and actively tries to seek out and detain Americans seeking abortions (including carrying out pregnancy tests on unaccompanied minors)As the author has remarked “there’s not much in “Red Clocks” that hasn’t been suggested by an actual lawmaker”. Further the world presented is not that extreme – contraception is freely available and legal, one of the characters manages to source a reasonably safe if entirely illegal abortion, another character is allowed to actively seek fertility treatment despite being single. But I would argue that in many ways the relatively small step from our world to this world if anything makes the book ultimately more powerful than a fully-fledged dystopia.The bulk of the book is set in a small Oregon coastal town and told from the alternating third party viewpoint of four characters – who in their own chapters are given a label but who are named in the other characters’ chapters.Ro/The Biographer is in her early 40s – an unmarried high school teacher she is unsuccessfully trying artificial insemination, knowing her adoption and fostering chances are disappearing. Mattie/The Daughter – herself adopted – is a promising student at the school but her future is threatened by an unplanned pregnancy – something particularly haunting as her previous best friend is in a correctional facility having self-administered an abortion. Susan – is a mother of two, once a promising legal student she gave up her career for marriage and children, her under-motivated husband uses his only skills (natural French speaker) to scrape a salary as a French teacher while the two live rent free in Susan’s childhood home. Gin/The Mender – lives on the edge of town, living naturally and providing herbal remedies to women which she barters for supplies – her recent relationship with the headmaster’s wife has ended with the latter having a severe fall – and she faces trial for drugging the wife.This device of labelling the characters can feel both artificial and also in some ways counter productive and anti-feminist – implying that the characters are one-dimensional and largely defined by their family status. So I found it very useful to read in detail what the author said about this aspect of the book, which also brings out the autobiographical elements of the book: “I was thinking a lot about the narratives women inherit about motherhood, marriage, professional ambition, purpose in life—and how these narratives are not great for many of us. So I imagined five very different female characters and gave them different labels to highlight some of the roles women perform …. All of them face longstanding questions about women’s bodies—who decides what your body is used for …. What happens if you end up not taking the motherhood path, or you choose not to have a romantic partner—what label is assigned to you then? By interlacing their stories, I was hoping to suggest how insufficient any one label ends up being ….. Red Clocks is rooted in my experience of trying to have a baby on my own, via artificial insemination …. I thought I would get pregnant easily, but I didn’t. I started to question why I wanted so badly to have a baby in the first place. Several years later, I had a son with my partner. …. I remain ambivalent about the ways in which the mother role is framed as an imperative (moral, emotional, social, existential) at the expense of other roles and identities. This ambivalence, I think, is part of the reason I gave the five characters such different relationships to motherhood.” Another key aspect to the book is the relationships between the characters: “I definitely did not start with political themes in mind. What I started out with were characters and particularly the idea of female friendship and all the ways it can be burdened by either envy or competition or difference or just having different experiences and not being able to share them”“I think for my entire writing life and into the future I will be writing about female friendships and female relationships. That's one of my core interests. That bond between women is so layered, so thorny, and can be really supportive and really competitive at the same time.” And this comes out strongly in the book – for example Ro and Susan have a mutually suspicious and judgemental relationship; Ro struggles when Mattie asks for her assistance, desperately wanting to suggest that she pays Mattie to deliver the baby for her to secretly adopt despite Mattie’s clear wish to terminate the pregnancy; Gin’s relationship to Mattie is even more nuanced.As the author has also remarked in interviews “There’s so much … cultural, familial or actual policy regulation around women’s bodies” and the book brings this out – for example much of the pressure Ro faces is from her father and from her friends.The book starts (and is threaded) with excerpts from a work-in-progress biography of a (fictional) 19th century Icelandic female polar explorer and scientist Eivør Mínervudottír who has to fight against a hostile environment – both literally and figuratively (she can only get her ideas publicised by giving them to a male Scottish scientist and adopts his identity to get a place on the expedition; at one stage her revolutionary observations on ice packs are dismissed out of hand by her captain who claims she will soon be spotting ice fairies; next her male companions believe narwahles are unicorns).Ro is also of course the writer of these biographical inserts which: function as a story in their own right (see comments above); serve as an overarching metaphor (women trying so survive in an icy and hostile environment); and often have small, immediate parallels with the preceding or following chapters (as an example Gin’s male lawyer studied with Gin – and may even have had a relationship with her, just like the speculation around Eivør and the Scottish scientist – and his breakthrough in the trail is suggested to him by Gin but not credited to her). Other areas of personal interest that the author explores in the text (not always successfully) include: - Virginia Woolf’s “The Lighthouse” which provides the epigraph, the character’s (and town’s) names and inspired both the the seaside setting and the multi-voice approach- Whales – multiple times in the biography, some fruitless classroom discussion of Moby Dick and in an otherwise out of place incident when some whales wash up on shore - Witches – Gin’s trial is a modern version of a Salem Witch trials. Apparently at one stage pre-editing the link was going to be much stronger (with actual transcripts used) but even still I found some elements a little unbelievably given the near alternative future in which the world was set – for example a large part of the hostility to Gin seems to stem from her being blamed for the reappearance of some harmful-to-fishing seaweed.- Dirt and decay: Susan is obsessed with a plastic bag she sees which she thinks might be a dying animal; when Susan has her final argument with her husband she falls to the floor and eats dirt; her husband is obsessed with (but not prepared to contribute to) cleaning hairs from the toilet- Disintegration and Reintegration: much of Gin’s medicine is harvested from the unburied body of the woman who raised her; when Eivør dies a passage of Ro’s biography speculates on how her body re-entered the food chain.- Quite subtlety race – as seen through the background relationship between Mattie and her best friend and the fate of the latterOverall this was a much more complex book than I had expected – at times I think trying to do too much, but certainly impressive for its ambition.Useful interview links (from which I have freely borrowed)http://www.powells.com/post/interview...https://bookpage.com/interviews/22184...http://www.oregonlive.com/books/index...
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    I have seen a significant uptick in the "feminist dystopia" genre in the last year, but RED CLOCKS is the first book to fall into this category that feels fully realized and fully successful to me. It took me a little while to get going, to understand how the characters fit together, and to see how the structure of the book was going to work. But once I was oriented I found myself getting deeply absorbed. I read this book on the sidelines of t-ball practice, with people and kids running all arou I have seen a significant uptick in the "feminist dystopia" genre in the last year, but RED CLOCKS is the first book to fall into this category that feels fully realized and fully successful to me. It took me a little while to get going, to understand how the characters fit together, and to see how the structure of the book was going to work. But once I was oriented I found myself getting deeply absorbed. I read this book on the sidelines of t-ball practice, with people and kids running all around me, working as hard as I could to tune it out because I wanted more time in it.Sometimes in these near-future dystopias I find myself annoyed and rolling my eyes. Most of these books are societies where things suddenly turn on a dime, where the change happens so quickly, and where the real repercussions of that kind of change don't actually seem to penetrate. The new society is the kind of society where the current rules have always been the rules. It's not the most effective worldbuilding. Here, I felt regularly creeped out by Zumas's speculative leaps. They feel like the kind of thing that could happen, that could happen soon, that could happen even with the hurdles it would require. And more than that, the world she lives in is one where people remember the rules before, where not everyone likes them, where people are still figuring out what to do with the new cards they've been dealt. To me, that makes it much more scary and affecting than a book with a horrific patriarchal system that feels farther away from my own reality.The structure of the novel is basically perfect. The four women in the book all have lives centered around the central system of the female sex: its ability to bear children. It is the thing that has made patriarchal culture what it is, but it is also something that women have reclaimed and found joy and identity in as feminism has evolved. The way these women relate to pregnancy, birth, abortion, and childrearing stands in stark contrast to one another, but they all felt real and personally relevant. That Zumas allows them to be so different, to envy and dislike each other for their differences, and leaves it all without comment, without choosing any one character to be a moral highground or an arbiter of what is good, is another thing I liked about it so much. The book stays zoomed in on these women's lives, letting us see how they intertwine and react. It doesn't try to make a bigger statement, which is why it makes such an effective statement.Extra bonus points for the fantastic cover, get the actually physical book if you can and take it with you out in public because there is very little in the world that is better than a book with (basically) a vagina on the cover.
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  • Lata
    January 1, 1970
    The author presents a horrifying possible future when abortions are illegal, and Canada supports the US in preventing women from determining whether or not to maintain a pregnancy. The author follows four different women, with each chapter switching from one character's point of view to another, weaving each character's experiences with the other three women. No one is particularly likeable, and the writing style can be a little choppy, but this was an interesting read. And unfortunately, terrib The author presents a horrifying possible future when abortions are illegal, and Canada supports the US in preventing women from determining whether or not to maintain a pregnancy. The author follows four different women, with each chapter switching from one character's point of view to another, weaving each character's experiences with the other three women. No one is particularly likeable, and the writing style can be a little choppy, but this was an interesting read. And unfortunately, terribly plausible, at least as far as where the US seems to be headed with respect to women's autonomy over their bodies.
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  • Miss
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Goodreads/author for giving me this book for review. Unfortunately, I have been very let down by this book. It's so, boring. Not exciting at all. The writing is just so all over the place. This book feels like it belongs on a required reading list at school and I didn't like any of those books. I tried pushing through I really really tried because I wanted to like this book. It seemed very intriguing and definitely something I would like. But I just could not get into it. I didn't c Thank you to Goodreads/author for giving me this book for review. Unfortunately, I have been very let down by this book. It's so, boring. Not exciting at all. The writing is just so all over the place. This book feels like it belongs on a required reading list at school and I didn't like any of those books. I tried pushing through I really really tried because I wanted to like this book. It seemed very intriguing and definitely something I would like. But I just could not get into it. I didn't care for these character's at all. I didn't feel any emotion towards them. I feel like this book told me more than it showed me. I'm very upset that I just couldn't get into this book or really enjoy it. I really do want other people to try it themselves because I feel like a lot of people will enjoy it. I'm just in the minority and can't do it I'm so sad to say.
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  • ♥ Sandi ❣
    January 1, 1970
    3.75 starsThis book so reminds me of When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. Zumas takes a stab at a future world where abortion is illegal, IVF is banned and adoption is restricted to couples only. We follow 4 women, and a fifth only through an historical written narrative, in a small coastal town in Oregon. Having passed a Personhood Amendment which recognizes embryos as full citizens, women who seek abortion are convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Zumas tries to capture the essence of such an 3.75 starsThis book so reminds me of When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. Zumas takes a stab at a future world where abortion is illegal, IVF is banned and adoption is restricted to couples only. We follow 4 women, and a fifth only through an historical written narrative, in a small coastal town in Oregon. Having passed a Personhood Amendment which recognizes embryos as full citizens, women who seek abortion are convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Zumas tries to capture the essence of such an amendment as these 5 try to conceive or to end a pregnancy after our government takes the right to control their own body away from women. Although a dystopian novel, this story correlates very well to the current day. The only major difference is government's passage of the Personhood Amendment. Zumas gives us a bird's eye view of what could easily become our current day policies, if left in the hands of pro-life government officials. The author tends to write in fragments with a lot of sexual innuendo. However each of the 4 narrating voices are clear - each is following their own path and trying to navigate a world that has become limiting to women. Terrifying little book that could so easily turn from fiction to non-fiction.
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