23 June 2010

Book Review: NoMansLand

Title:  Nomansland
Author: Lesley Hauge
Publisher: Henry Holt Company
Release Date: 22 June 2010
Date Read: 18 June 2010

Challenges: 100+ Reading ChallengeWomen UnBoundYA Reading Challenge, Hogwarts Reading Challenge,

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

The Short and Sweet of It
Keller lives in a post-apocalyptic, all-female society where beauty and friendship are supplanted by hard work and community. When Keller and some other girls discover artifacts from the Time Before, they question their own society. While certain themes within the book frustrated me, overall I enjoyed the story and will pick up the next book in the series.

A Bit of a Ramble
First, what I didn't like.  In Foundland, the rules are complex and strictly enforced. This post-apocalyptic world discourages or outright forbids friendship, beauty, and solitary introspection while promoting community, hard work, and efficiency. Nothing wrong with this part - after all this is what dystopian literature is all about. Then we have the Pitfalls which are sort of a seven deadly sins thing: Reflection, Decoration, Coquetry, Triviality, Vivacity, Compliance, and Sensuality. The book suggests that these feminine qualities were suppressed 1) in order to not distract from the harshness of survival and 2) because in the Time Before, women were obsessed with these things and were raped all the time. Of course, when Keller and company find their treasure trove of Time Before memorabilia, they spend all their time putting on make-up, trying on clothes, and organizing a beauty contest.  I find this obsession with beauty artificial and mildly insulting.  First, I resent the implication that these Pitfalls/Sins are "feminine" qualities.  Second, I have a hard time believing that these women would become so enamored of make-up and clothes.  With an entire house to explore and a houseful of goods to play with, would they really focus on nothing more than beauty?

While the presentation of the female in this book annoyed me, I did enjoy the characters.  Keller is both the most loyal of the rebels and the most rebellious, which seems contradictory but is used often in dystopian novels. She wants to contribute to the communal good; she is adamant in supporting some of their beliefs; and she vehemently spouts portions of the ideology.  When she rebels, she does so heavy with guilt and fear.  I've always enjoyed this technique because I can see how it would be the most loyal, the most devout who would react most strongly to a loss of faith.

The most intriguing character was Ms. Windsor, the leader of Foundland.  She's like a psychotic drug-using pimp who hasn't matured past 8.  Seriously, it's crazy. My favorite part of her character is the violent hatred she has for the Time Before. I've never understood how characters in dystopian novels can hate a world, a culture, that they have no real knowledge of.  Oh, or maybe my favorite part is the random tantrum-throwing screaming. I'm hoping we have a lot more of her in the next book.  I've heard it may be a prequel, so I have my fingers crossed that it centers on this crazy character.

Memorable Scene/Quote:  When Ms. Windsor works to seduce Keller to her side, she discusses the story of Eve in the Bible.  Ms. Windsor makes the case that the entire Bible is anti-women, that it says women are "weak, capricious, curious, and meddlesome, and that we are to be subjugated, beaten, held prisoner if necessary, dominated. The book says everything is our fault."  Ms. Windsor believes the real problem lay in men's "fear of themselves. Fear of their own lust, male lust! And all laws, even after the power of the book fell away, the whole construction upon which the peoples from the Time Before based their communities, was built upon controlling and subjugating that devouring, screaming, ravening lust that dwelled in the breast of the male species."

I find this whole exchange very intriguing for a couple of reasons.  I've always had problems with the Bible.  I can even remember one incident in grade school - I went to a Catholic school - where I asked one of these college kids (there to give a presentation) how girls were supposed to agree with the Bible when it was so mean to them. The girl I asked told me that all of that stuff was in the Bible to remind men to be nice to women, to respect them, and to protect them. Okay....

Then, of course, the second part of the exchange reminded me of The Handmaid's Tale.  Actually, a bit of the story was reminiscent of Atwood's.  But where Atwood's world was complex and believable, Hauge's is just a bit too immature.Then again, one is an adult novel, and one is a young adult novel, so this difference is actually rather appropriate.

The Filmic Connection
I think I'd like to see Kyra Sedgwick play Ms. Windsor.  I can see her pulling off the frantic childlike tantrums and shifting seamlessly into the perfectly collected ruler.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

at Amazon; at GoodReads; The Compulsive Reader; A Patchwork of Books;  an interview with Lesley Hauge at Manga Maniac Cafe;

Question:  Can you truly hate a society you have no real knowledge of?  Are there any cultures which existed 100+ years ago that you violently hate?


  1. Maybe my brain, along with my body, is on vacation. But this book's premise confuses and overwhelms me. Maybe I've read too many dark, complicated books lately...

  2. Oh I am not sure I'll like this one after all. I dont' consider those feminine traits either, and the idea of being obsessed with beauty is insulting to me too. I'll see what I can do to make it through...

  3. Trisha, I only read through reader so somehow missed your new layout. I don't know how long you've had it, but I love it! It is gorgeous!

  4. Hmm...I don't know if it being YA is a good justification. So many young adult novels portray complex and mature worlds. The idea of those being "feminine" traits really puts me off too, so I'm not sure if this would work for me.

    PS: Love the blog's new look! Well done.

  5. First off, you had my with this sentence "Keller lives in a post-apocalyptic, all-female society."
    and I like everything else you say that I think I will rush to find this.
    I had a SECOND, but I've forgotten it...

  6. Sandy - I would say that unless dystopian novels are really your thing, this is not the book for you.

    Amanda - We seem to have very different opinions about books lately, so you probably should give it a try! :)

    Amy - Thanks! I actually did it just last night, so you aren't late to the party or anything. :)

    Ana - You know, I actually agree. I think I was being overly nice. And thanks! I loved the brown and blue, but it was time for a change, a cleaner look.

    Care - That first sentence is exactly why I picked this up in the first place. Just sounded like such an interesting premise. Hmmm...now I'm really wondering what the "second" was...

  7. Like the new look, by the way. Isn't it fun to play with this stuff. Like the choices you made.

    And this book does sound a bit off. I know I don't get giddy about make-up and clothes now when I can ... so it is hard for me to buy into that attitude.

  8. This doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy -- like Ana, I don't think a novel's being YA necessarily justifies skimping on subtlety or complexity. Great review, though! And I love your new blog layout.

  9. Jenners - Thanks! I love playing around with it, but I have a hard time actually making a definite choice. I like this one though.

    Stephanie - I think I agree with you guys. And thanks! I'm really liking it too.


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