Book Review: Women’s Work

12_br_womensworkRead for: The lovely author sent me a copy!
Rating: 4/5
I was very pleasantly surprised by Women’s Work! The story begins after the Last War has wiped out huge portions of the world, and women have taken control to try to “fix” the things they felt men had done to cause disaster. Dystopian feminist science fiction! This is right up my street. Aguila convincingly depicts the simplified lives of a community of women who practice farming, bartering and sisterhood in order to survive with their children. They have recovered the rights that men had stripped of them prior to the Last War, and have succeeded in swinging the pendulum in favour of women, pushing men into subservient positions. Unhappy with being toppled from power, many men roam the country raiding the women’s villages and bringing violence. In the midst of anxiety about the safety of their neighbourhood, a man comes to Kate’s front door with a sick child and she has to choose whether to help him or not. I thought this story was very well put together, and I liked the way Aguila approached the idea of a matriarchal society. She raises some important points about equality and gender roles; several women in the community have husbands, but they are excluded from making decisions and are not allowed to leave the house which is obviously a subversion of the traditional gender roles of breadwinner and homemaker. What I found most interesting about this book was the case made for true gender equality by showing possible consequences of the full inversion of a patriarchal society. Matriarchal societies have been done in a number of other books, but often in a utopian way illustrating women’s success on top at the expense of men. Rarely do they address the notion of men’s rights in addition to women’s (at least in the books I have come across, if anyone has reading suggestions throw them at me!). In an ideal world all genders would enjoy equal footing in all aspects, and neither men nor women would be top dog, and Women’s Work has me thinking about this in a new way. The writing also subtly addresses essentialist ideas in the dialogue between characters; many women in the community assume Man = Violence and Anger, Woman = Nurturing and Kindness (very reminiscent of Tepper’s Gate to Women’s Country), but Kate and a handful of characters express that they think this concept is baloney (which, heyo, it is). Another minor note: I appreciated the believability of the dialogue in Women’s Work. The characters are well developed and Aguila is great at writing children. I hate it when characters are introduced as children, but then their dialogue reads the same as adults. All in all, a great debut! I wouldn’t mind Women’s Work becoming one of those trendy trilogies… hint hint…

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