Sunday, 16 September 2012
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
When She Woke is a modern retelling of the classic The Scarlett Letter. Unfortunately, I've not read the latter so I can't judge how faithful to the original it was. Hannah does refuse to name the father of her unborn child but this isn't as integral to the plot as I had imagined it to be. When She Woke is more about the dystopia of Jordan's imagined American society than anything else.
It's hard to make a judgement of this book as the first and second halves are remarkably different. The first half is about the society Hannah lives in and the reactions of her friends and family to her having the abortion, whilst the second is more action packed as Hannah struggles to escape the Fist. I liked the first half but found the second implausible and a bit silly. I was most interested in the psychological impact on Hannah - what would it be like to be branded forever as a criminal? The passages where Hannah is free and trying to interact with members of the public were fascinating.
I think some of the impact of this book was dulled by me not being American. I'm British and whilst some people here may feel strongly about abortion, it's not a large issue and definitely not a political one. No one finds out whether our politicians are 'pro-choice' or 'pro-life' and it's rare to see a discussion or debate around abortion. Had I been in America, where I know abortion is more highly charged, abortion equaling murder would have been more powerful. Consequently I wanted to know more about Chromes that were different to Hannah - the blues, yellows and greens. Were they treated differently than she was?
As I mentioned above, the second half of the book was a bit of a let down. Hannah is targeted by a radical group and starts on an action packed journey to escape. I think Jordan is trying to portray Hannah's character growth as she starts to care less what others think of her but this comes across as rushed and unbelievable. There's even the inclusion of a lesbian scene that seems completely out of character for Hannah,given that only a few months earlier she was regurgitating all her evangelical parents' beliefs as facts. I truly hope the author wasn't associating feminism with lesbianism i.e because Hannah becomes a feminist, she must find other women sexually attractive. Hannah would have changed, but not as fast as Jordan made her.
On the whole, the premise of When She Woke was stronger than the execution. I'm still thinking about Chromes almost a week after finishing the book but the plot didn't measure up. A thought provoking read.
Source: Library (reserved)
First Published: 2011
My Edition: Harper Collins UK, 2012
Score: 3 out of 5