Sunday, 30 September 2012

When She Woke

Hillary Jordan's When She Woke, is an updated version of Nigel Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter by way of Margaret Atwood.  This was a fantastic read, inspired by a dinner conversation that Jordan had with an uncle, and is a must for any fans of speculative fiction. 
In the future, crimes are not only punished with a jail sentence, but with a technique called melanchroming, which dyes a criminal's skin a certain colour depending on their crime.  Yellow for petty crime, Green for more aggravated assaults, Red for murder.  When She Woke follows Hannah, a red who had an illegal abortion, and how she navigates her once restricted world in her new skin.  

I loved the use of flashbacks, trickled throughout, that provided more information as to how complex Hannah's character really is.  Jordan slowly reveals how Hannah has been trapped in her faith for so long, been told to keep quiet when she tried to question her life, and now her life has become one big question mark.

I was amazed that Jordan was able to use stereotypes to the advantage of her story, without ever making it feel cliched.  I was also impressed at the non-preachy nature of When She Woke.  For a book about someone whose religion has been used against them, it's certainly not a piece of propaganda for atheism, but rather about the power of an individual having a choice rather than being led by the mob.

When She Woke is relentless and I couldn't put it down until I found out exactly how Hannah's story would play out.  A fabulous, intelligent and insightful read that is absolutely on my Christmas list.

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