Sunday, June 10, 2012

BOOK: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, 340 pages

When She Woke is Hillary Jordan's fantastic retelling of The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne, but a futuristic version. Instead of Hester Prynne being forced to wear the red letter A on her clothes, for adultery, after having a baby with minister Arthur Dimmesdale in Puritan America, we have Hannah Payne who is 'chromed' red after having an abortion with evangelical minister Aiden Dale in a future America. Both women refuse to name the father of their child, and in both cases, only the woman is punished.

Sidetrack: I read The Scarlet Letter when it was about to be remade into a movie starring Demi Moore in 1995. I accidentally picked up The Scarlet Pimpernell which turned out to be a far superior book in my view. When I finally read The Scarlet Letter, I was terribly bored. It was the style of writing, late 19th century American writing more than the story which bothered me. The plot and characters were fine, but I cannot stand that prose. I was put off enough by the book that I never did see the movie, but I am glad that I read the book, if only to have the literary references to read When She Woke. Ah, classic novels. We have to read you if only to better appreciate the homages that are written. I loved Bridget Jones' Diary, but after reading Pride and Prejudice, I appreciated it even more.

Back to When She Woke, which is really the beautiful child of The Scarlet Letter and The Handmaid's Tale. I could predict the arc of the story: Young naive girl has never questioned the world she lives in. Suddenly thrust into reality of her world, she meets brave people who rebel against all she has believed, and gradually, through some dangerous situations, faces the truth of the society that has kept her down, and recognizes the wrong in her past beliefs. As predictable as all dystopian novels, Jordan does an excellent job of following the standard steps, and making characters that are believable, and still adding some plot twists to keep the reader entertained. As I carried this book around in the past week, I pushed and or recommended this book to all my reading friends.

There is a religious aspect to the novel, as Hannah is forced to examine her beliefs, and her God. Jordan exposes Hannah to several extremes, and while the author's view comes through (I think) she does present different sides, (kind of like Stephen Colbert does!) This book was only released in October 2011, so it is still a fairly new release.  I saw it was picked as a possible Orange nominee on a couple of predicting lists, which is what piqued my interest. Fans of Jordan's first novel, Mudbound, will be especially impressed with the author's versatility and talent.

also reviewed: sophia at page plucker; lavender lines; leeswammer's blog; rhapsody in books; softdrink at fizzy thoughts; kailana at the written world; bookfool at bookfoolery;