Review: Herland

Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I saw this on a list of “early sci-fi books written by women” and DAMN.  DAMN.  It was written as a serial and then published as a book in 1915.  Women got the right to vote in 1919.  Just FYI – that means this woman-written-science-fiction-utopian-novel about a society of women-only (literally, parthenogenesis – virgin birth no men society).

It was short and sweet and fun to listen to (via Librivox). The premise is three American men discover/get to this little land which has been protected by mountains & cliffs for two-thousand years.  With no men. Because the men killed each other.

I did get a little tired of the word “motherhood” because the over arching philsophy of these women is motherhood.  And so everything he (the imaginary male protagonist writer) “explores” about this utopia deals with this core concept.

It is fascinating.  I finished it on my way home and immediately wanted to write my thoughts, but that’s actually really hard. I’m going to have to chew on it for awhile. Was she making fun of “motherhood” in some places or did she really think that “motherhood” was the ultimate ideal for humanity. She definitely thinks men are the only reason humanity has wars or fights.

And, I was warned so it didn’t catch me off guard, the author had a thing for eugenics – which granted was a thing in the early twentieth century.  She was not saying one race over others (apparently these women looked like all the races) but breeding out “defects” such as needing glasses or behavioral problems…. yeah, so that’s a thing I don’t want anyone surprised by.

Ok, so without being spoilery; this book is reminescent of books like The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Call of the Wild in tone and pacing.  Low “action” and high “thoughts” but it isn’t boring by any means.  Gilman definitely keeps coming back to certain actions so the reader isn’t JUST reading a treatise.  And there is a mystery that gets hinted at and hinted at and the reveal feels natural.  And not surprising.  And still a hair shocking simply because the narrator was so surprised by it.

My Review: go read it to expand your horizons, but keep it in the context of its own time.

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Librin Latone

Writer, nerd, and perpetual student. I am obsessed with books - both the reading and the making of them. If I won the lottery I would try to have the best private(ish) library in the world. It wouldn't be totally private because the whole purpose of having books is helping other people find a book they will love. I have 2 cats, Genkii (energy) and Kawaii (cutie). I will mention them regularly because they are a daily delight in my life. Granted, sometimes when I'm playing video games they are not so much "delight" as they are "distraction"... but I love them regardless.