‘Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers.
Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue – but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.’
What led me to pick up this book is the vibrant and electric illustration! I know, I know … never judge a book by its cover!
But right from the off this book amazed me with Wood’s imagery. Throughout, she formed sentences to allow for the conjuring of vivid, imaginative and in some cases, gruesome images. It is one of the most descriptive books I have read for a long time. I really enjoyed this element of the book and found myself transported to a different place each time I picked it up.
I found that the actual plot of the book was lacking. The concept was good and the idea of women being kidnapped due to a shared history of sexual scandals with high profile men is something I was ready to buy into. I was excited to read more about the unbreakable bond between these women and their shared strife in finding freedoms. In this respect, I was not totally disappointed. However, I found that the backstories were not as fully or deeply explored as I had anticipated.
As a result, this created some initial difficulty in differentiating between the women. However, as the plot progresses, we learn more about the three main protagonists. As the plot thickens, you can also easily identify the demise of these individuals on their way to insanity.
This is a story of female strength in the face of toxic masculinity. The women in this book were stripped to nothing and held captive under male control. This in some ways is indicative of the lives the women had led before being captured. They lived hiding out of sight with powerful men of the public eye. They were manipulated to believe the men loved them, but in fact they were being used.
The reason for their capture remains unexplored throughout the book and was not explicitly discussed. This, to me, was quite disappointing as it felt as though the main bulk of the story was left for me to guess?
Nonetheless, this book demonstrated the raw strength of women in the face of superficial and weak men.
‘Would it be said they were abandoned or taken, the way people said a girl was attacked, a woman was raped, this femaleness always at the centre, as if womanhood itself were the cause of these things? As if the girls somehow, though the natural way of things, did it to themselves.’
Although this is a book I can’t see myself picking up again, I do recommend it purely for its descriptive value. Wood manages to create a completely alien experience and as reader, I was able to really empathise the position of the main female protagonists. Somewhat gruesome and gory, the book explores what it takes to survive with nothing; no material goods, no individuality but above all, no hope.
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