Tag: Dystopian

Book Review: The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

The School for Good Mothers
Author: Jessamine Chan
Published: January 4, 2022


Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: May 1-6, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars     

Book Description:

Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. What’s worse is she can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with their angelic daughter Harriet does Frida finally feel she’s attained the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she’s just enough.

Until Frida has a horrible day.

The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida — ones who check their phones while their kids are on the playground; who let their children walk home alone; in other words, mothers who only have one lapse of judgement. Now, a host of government officials will determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion. Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that she can live up to the standards set for mothers — that she can learn to be good.

Jessica’s Review:

The entire novel centers around Frida and her very bad day with a lapse of judgement.  She left her 18-month-old child alone for about two hours, and got caught. She then finds herself in the court system and ultimately ends up in a ‘school’ to learn about being a mother for the courts to determine if she should keep or lose her maternal rights to her daughter. I’m keeping my personal thoughts aside as to what Frida did and focusing on the aftermath which is this novel.   

At this school it is all women who have either neglected or abandoned their child in some form. The school is extremely harsh and would make one think twice about having a child, but these women are already mothers.  The use of deprivation of their children and loosing more possible time with them is harsh and they are also given lifelike dolls that record everything to see how the women react. I became attached to Frida’s doll child, she seemed so lifelike to me!

You can’t help but feel for Frida, as the reader can see she really does love her child Harriet and is doing everything she can to win back her rights. The school lasts for a year where they can not see their children in person at all, but there is video and phone calls.  And these calls can and are taken away as punishment.   This is both torturous in many ways as Harriet is so young and will she remember her mother?  Harriett is staying with her father Gust and his girlfriend.    There is also a mantra that the mothers must also constantly repeat. We see how various mothers are affected by this living situation they are all forced into.  Frida’s punishment came off as harsh to me: Frida needed some kind of help for the decision she made, but this???? This ‘schooling’ was extreme in my opinion. 

This dystopian novel gives you so much to think about: surveillance, racism, sexism, parenting, how much control the government should have, and so much more. There is a home for fathers who have made bad choices as well and we do get to see a small part of that when the schools mix.  I would like to see another novel that shows what the men go through in their daily life at their ‘school’.  Somehow, I doubt it is as extreme as the women’s ‘schooling’, hence the double standard that exists between genders and parenting.

The School is quite repetitive with the daily life at the school, and I feel that could have been cut down somewhat. The ‘schooling’ the women are forced to go through is just painful to read and then the ending was not what I was expecting.  It is not a happy ending and there is also confusion with this ending. 

I did not really enjoy this novel, I can’t see how a reader could actually ‘enjoy’ it, but for me Chan accomplished what she set out to do: leave you with a thought provoking  novel that will that will stay with you long after you have finished The School for Good Mothers. I am sure actual mothers will have so many more thoughts than I did.

This is a debut novel, and I do look forward to what else Chan writes in the future. 

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Release Day Review: Curfew by Jane Cowie

Jayne Cowie

Published: TODAY, March 22, 2022
320 Pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: March 3-14, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

Think The Handmaid’s Tale but with the women in charge, set in a world where all men are electronically tagged and placed under strict curfew, and the murder investigation threatening to undo it all.

Imagine a near-future Britain in which women dominate workplaces, public spaces, and government. Where the gender pay gap no longer exists and motherhood opens doors instead of closing them. Where women are no longer afraid to walk home alone, to cross a dark parking lot, or to catch the last train.

Where all men are electronically tagged and not allowed out after 7 p.m.

But the curfew hasn’t made life easy for everyone. Sarah is a single mother who happily rebuilt her life after her husband, Greg, was sent to prison for breaking curfew. Now he’s about to be released, and Sarah isn’t expecting a happy reunion, given that she’s the reason he was sent there.

Her teenage daughter, Cass, hates living in a world that restricts boys like her best friend, Billy. Billy would never hurt anyone, and she’s determined to prove it. Somehow.

Helen is a teacher at the local school. Secretly desperate for a baby, she’s applied for a cohab certificate with her boyfriend, Tom, and is terrified that they won’t get it. The last thing she wants is to have a baby on her own.

These women don’t know it yet, but one of them is about to be violently murdered. Evidence will suggest that she died late at night and that she knew her attacker. It couldn’t have been a man because a CURFEW tag is a solid alibi.

Jessica’s Review:

Curfew is a dystopian novel set in the not-too-distant future of Britain.  In this world, women rule and men suffer by being tagged with an ankle monitor and under a curfew from 7pm-7am. If they break it they go to prison. The premise intrigued me and the feminist in me was ready to rock and roll in this world and see what happens!  Curfew gives us a different sort of world where it sucks to be a man.  Men are tagged starting at age 10, which is just hard to comprehend. There is a scene that shows a boy going to get his first tag that was a bit heartbreaking for me.   

We start the novel with a body being found from overnight and it just doesn’t seem like a woman could have done it.  But men are under curfew and the police would have known right away if a man was outside after 7pm.  The mystery of who the victim is lasts for most of the novel and I kept changing my guess as to who the victim was.  She is one of several characters we meet and all the characters have a reason they could be our victim. 

Curfew gives you a lot of things to think about. Would a world like this actually work? Would women actually be safe?  For me some of the rules/laws set up to help women also seemed to hinder women. I personally don’t see the concept of Curfew working and could never see society agree to something like this. But the way some things are headed you never know what might happen. 

The novel does have ‘man bashing’ undertones to it which I looked past. I also had an issue with something that has to do with one certain character that I can’t say without spoilers.  For me, it just seemed to show how the whole tagging issue may not actually work. 

I enjoyed this one and it would be a great book club read to get many kinds of conversations going, some of which might get heated. 

Many thanks to the publisher for granting me an e-arc through NetGalley. 

Purchase/Pre-Order Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK (Will be published as After Dark on April 1, 2022)


Short Story Sunday: Halfway to Free by Emma Donoghue

Halfway to Free
Series: Out of Line collection
Author: Emma Donoghue

Published:  September 1, 2020

Reviewed By: Jessica
Date Read: February 1, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars

Short Story Description:

Miriam was raised in a society without children. To offset the devastation of climate change, state-of-the-art birth control has made daycares and playgrounds things of the past. As tempting as the government inducements are to remain child-free, Miriam’s curiosity about the people who “drop out” of society to become parents grows. When she finds a like-minded partner, she must choose between the rewarding comforts she knows and the unknowable mysteries of being a mother.

Emma Donoghue’s Halfway to Free is part of Out of Line, an incisive collection of funny, enraging, and hopeful stories of women’s empowerment and escape. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting.

Jessica’s Review:

Taking place in 2060, I would rather this short story be a full-length novel as all the beginnings of a dystopian tale will leave the reader thinking.  The world that Miriam lives in is overpopulated and having a child is looked down upon.  NOT having a child is the acceptable choice and only the extremely wealthy or celebrities procreate.  There are even government incentives, support and more to stay child free.  This includes having health care, housing, and even employment.  There are still those that go against the grain and decide to procreate thus losing everything. Those form their own communities to pull through together.

Miriam has come to a crossroads in her life with what she should do and what she wants to do.  She and her partner have to come to a decision.

This short story really makes you think with everything going on in this dystopian world, why would someone want to have a child as there is so much to lose.  This story with its ‘anti-children’ stance parallels what goes on in our world today if one does not have a child, whether due to life circumstances or health reasons. 

I really hope that Donoghue decides to expand upon this short story, there is so much potential here!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK