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Widowland

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An alternative history with a strong feminist twist, perfect for fans of Robert Harris' Fatherland, C. J. Sansom's Dominion and the dystopian novels of Margaret Atwood To control the past, they edited history. To control the future, they edited literature. London, 1953, Coronation year - but not the Coronation of Elizabeth II. Thirteen years have passed since a Grand Alliance An alternative history with a strong feminist twist, perfect for fans of Robert Harris' Fatherland, C. J. Sansom's Dominion and the dystopian novels of Margaret Atwood To control the past, they edited history. To control the future, they edited literature. London, 1953, Coronation year - but not the Coronation of Elizabeth II. Thirteen years have passed since a Grand Alliance between Great Britain and Germany was formalized. George VI and his family have been murdered and Edward VIII rules as King. Yet, in practice, all power is vested in Alfred Rosenberg, Britain's Protector. Britain is the perfect petri dish for the ideal society, and the role and status of women is Roseberg's particular interest. Under the Rosenberg regulations women are divided into a number of castes according to age, heritage, reproductive status and physical characteristics. Rose belongs to the elite caste of Gelis. She works at the Ministry of Culture rewriting literature to correct the views of the past. She has been charged with making Jane Eyre more submissive, Elizabeth Bennet less feisty and Dorothea Brooke less intelligent. One morning she is summoned to the Cultural Commissioner's office and given a special task. Outbreaks of insurgency have been seen across the country. Graffiti has been daubed on public buildings. Disturbingly, the graffiti is made up of lines from famous works, subversive lines from the voices of women. Suspicion has fallen on Widowland, the run down slums inhabited by childless women over fifty, the lowest caste. These women are known to be mutinous, for they seem to have lost their fear. Before the Leader arrives for the Coronation ceremony, Rose must infiltrate Widowland and find the source of this rebellion. But as she begins to investigate, she discovers something that could change the protectorate forever, and in the process change herself.


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An alternative history with a strong feminist twist, perfect for fans of Robert Harris' Fatherland, C. J. Sansom's Dominion and the dystopian novels of Margaret Atwood To control the past, they edited history. To control the future, they edited literature. London, 1953, Coronation year - but not the Coronation of Elizabeth II. Thirteen years have passed since a Grand Alliance An alternative history with a strong feminist twist, perfect for fans of Robert Harris' Fatherland, C. J. Sansom's Dominion and the dystopian novels of Margaret Atwood To control the past, they edited history. To control the future, they edited literature. London, 1953, Coronation year - but not the Coronation of Elizabeth II. Thirteen years have passed since a Grand Alliance between Great Britain and Germany was formalized. George VI and his family have been murdered and Edward VIII rules as King. Yet, in practice, all power is vested in Alfred Rosenberg, Britain's Protector. Britain is the perfect petri dish for the ideal society, and the role and status of women is Roseberg's particular interest. Under the Rosenberg regulations women are divided into a number of castes according to age, heritage, reproductive status and physical characteristics. Rose belongs to the elite caste of Gelis. She works at the Ministry of Culture rewriting literature to correct the views of the past. She has been charged with making Jane Eyre more submissive, Elizabeth Bennet less feisty and Dorothea Brooke less intelligent. One morning she is summoned to the Cultural Commissioner's office and given a special task. Outbreaks of insurgency have been seen across the country. Graffiti has been daubed on public buildings. Disturbingly, the graffiti is made up of lines from famous works, subversive lines from the voices of women. Suspicion has fallen on Widowland, the run down slums inhabited by childless women over fifty, the lowest caste. These women are known to be mutinous, for they seem to have lost their fear. Before the Leader arrives for the Coronation ceremony, Rose must infiltrate Widowland and find the source of this rebellion. But as she begins to investigate, she discovers something that could change the protectorate forever, and in the process change herself.

30 review for Widowland

  1. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this dystopian alternative history set in an England that is a protectorate of Nazi Germany and where women are classified by their Aryan-ness, age and breeding ability into a caste like system. Reading is discouraged (as are any solitary activities) and the main character Rose, an elite female, works in the culture ministry rewriting classic texts with problematic female characters so they fit into the regime ideals and suitable for classrooms. Everyone is busy in p I thoroughly enjoyed reading this dystopian alternative history set in an England that is a protectorate of Nazi Germany and where women are classified by their Aryan-ness, age and breeding ability into a caste like system. Reading is discouraged (as are any solitary activities) and the main character Rose, an elite female, works in the culture ministry rewriting classic texts with problematic female characters so they fit into the regime ideals and suitable for classrooms. Everyone is busy in preparation for the coronation of Edward VIII and his wife, and the Leader will be visiting. Graffiti has begun to appear quoting Mary Wollstonecraft and other female writers and Rose is asked to visit widowland, basically ghettoes where the lowest class of women live, old single and therefore of no use to society. It reminded me obviously of many classic dystopias from The Handmaid's Tale to 1984 but it’s highly readable and I finished it quickly.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    Ok, so I picked this because it has been flagged in a Guardian list of books to look out for in 2021 where it was described as 'smart': turns out that it's a fan-fiction-alike story, deeply derivative (there are recognisable lifts from 1984, Fatherland, The Handmaid's Tale, with a touch of the Bernie Gunther tales of Philip Kerr), clumsily plotted and with a 'popular' style of writing (women have 'heart-shaped faces', 'he was the kind of man who only grew more handsome as he aged', Nazis stalk a Ok, so I picked this because it has been flagged in a Guardian list of books to look out for in 2021 where it was described as 'smart': turns out that it's a fan-fiction-alike story, deeply derivative (there are recognisable lifts from 1984, Fatherland, The Handmaid's Tale, with a touch of the Bernie Gunther tales of Philip Kerr), clumsily plotted and with a 'popular' style of writing (women have 'heart-shaped faces', 'he was the kind of man who only grew more handsome as he aged', Nazis stalk around in 'black leather boots polished to a mirror shine' and call pretty girls 'liebling'; and 'excitement was at fever pitch'). So I'm really not the target audience for this book - I expected something more 'literary', and this is more of a Jolly Good Romp. I've put details of why this isn't for me in spoiler tags below and reveal the plot - read at your peril! (view spoiler)[So, like Fatherland and others the UK is now a colony of Nazi Germany and, in 1953, Hitler is coming on a visit for the coronation of Edward and Wallis ('the King's robes have been designed by Hugo Boss, but apparently Wallis' outfit is top secret. My money's on something madly stylish from Dior'). Drawing on 1984's Winston, our heroine Rose works for the Cultural Ministry where she rewrites English literature to make the heroines less intelligent and more subservient in line with Nazi ideology. As is the case in The Handmaid's Tale, women are divided into castes based on their reproductive capacities and given names based on Hitler's women: Geli, Magda etc. Rose is a Geli and so intelligent that she's sent on a top-secret mission to flush out rebel widows before Hitler arrives - the Gestapo and SS can't crush this women's resistance group in Oxford whose most heinous acts are daubing quotations from women's classics on public buildings, but obviously Rose is the Nazi secret weapon. But no, wait, - she eats the widows' bean stew and drinks their mint tea with home-made honey and before we know it, she's questioning all she's ever known (why are Jews being arrested? Is it possible that the Leader is an anti-Semite?) and, newly radicalised, is all set to assassinate Hitler by pouring cyanide over the leather bindings of his favourite book, Frankenstein, so that when he touches it...! (Yep, there's The Name of the Rose, too). I kept getting distracted by weird things like the statement that Edward and Wallis are the direct descendants of Charles I (I'm not sure here but wasn't Anne the last Stuart monarch and then the throne goes to George I from the House of Hannover, her second or third cousin?). I was bemused, too, that one of the caste differentials for women is the number of calories per day that they're allowed: Lenis get 2,020 while Magdas get only 2,006 - wow, 14 calories - what is that? half an orange? a quarter of a slice of bread? Surely I'm not being over-sensitive in finding the depiction of all German men as 'porcine' with onion-breath and cold hearts offensive in 2021? With the dodgy plotting, the inconsistencies and illogicalities, and the so-bad-it's-funny air, this is to alternative history/dystopia what The New Wilderness was to eco-dystopia. Will we be seeing it on the Booker 2021 longlist?! (hide spoiler)]

  3. 5 out of 5

    Blodeuedd Finland

    I finished this in a day, so yes I was sick and home and had time, but still, I totally binged. I really liked what if stories. What if England and Germany had made peace? What if England now had a Protector, the royal family had been killed and they had brought back Edward and Wallis since he was German friendly. What if the UK was totally isolated and they did not know what happened in the rest of the world. And how The UK was this weird place where women was designated titles and worth. Pretty I finished this in a day, so yes I was sick and home and had time, but still, I totally binged. I really liked what if stories. What if England and Germany had made peace? What if England now had a Protector, the royal family had been killed and they had brought back Edward and Wallis since he was German friendly. What if the UK was totally isolated and they did not know what happened in the rest of the world. And how The UK was this weird place where women was designated titles and worth. Pretty, young and Aryan? First class. A widow, childless and over 50? Low class, shut away in a crumbling part of the city. The best thing you can do is work, then marry and have kids. Many kids. Make-up, bad mouthing the regime and sex outside marriage is not tolerated. This was a grey brainwashed world. They had all gone through training to forget the Before times. Men who had survived the war had been sent away to labour camps. There were 2 women per every man. Resistance is futile. And then we have Rosa, brainwashed to not think of the Before times. She edits classics to make them more regime friendly. Not that reading or being literate is encouraged. Like is Pride and Prejudiced good? No, Elizabeth needs to be more quiet and timid, and stay within her class. Everything is edited, from history to literature. But she does have passions hidden deep, but she keeps them in check. And then she is sent out to interview women in Widowland, and she starts to think again... I liked it, yes alternative history is so interesting. All those what ifs. The UK turned into a really scary place. So dull and, huh, honestly what I know think of more like Soviet. Grey, mindless drones and everyone spying on you. And then insert crazy German ideologies. And it was so easy to read that I just could not put it down.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bookread2day

    When I started reading this book I didn’t think there was an actual storyline to it, how wrong was I . I thought it would be based on mainly just a history storyline. So why I recommend this book is that although this story is is based on history in London 1953, Coronation year but not the Coronation of Elizabeth II, the story here is with Rose Ransom who works in an office rewriting literature, on her typewriter, she can see from her office the Thames decorations with crowds in London beginning When I started reading this book I didn’t think there was an actual storyline to it, how wrong was I . I thought it would be based on mainly just a history storyline. So why I recommend this book is that although this story is is based on history in London 1953, Coronation year but not the Coronation of Elizabeth II, the story here is with Rose Ransom who works in an office rewriting literature, on her typewriter, she can see from her office the Thames decorations with crowds in London beginning to line the Coronation route and TV sets. All across the nation the Coronation of Edward VII and Queen Elizabeth Wallis was scheduled for 2nd May and the Government announced that every citizen in the land would have access to a television to watch it. The story does progress with Rose Ransom and other topics that I don’t want to go into a spoiler for those of you readers that like a storyline with characters, but with history added into the mix . The setting maybe fictional but many figures inside this novel existed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Thais • tata.lifepages •

    Review 4.5 stars! Thank you to Quercus books for the free ARC! This was a remarkable dystopian novel that had me hooked since the very beginning. I was captivated by the alternative history of the novel, which shows what could have happened after WWII if Germany had won and ruled over other countries in Europe, specially over England, Rose’s home. Due to Roses' ancestry, family, age and fertility, she is enlisted as part of the elite caste, a Geli. Her whole life is dictated by the caste division Review 4.5 stars! Thank you to Quercus books for the free ARC! This was a remarkable dystopian novel that had me hooked since the very beginning. I was captivated by the alternative history of the novel, which shows what could have happened after WWII if Germany had won and ruled over other countries in Europe, specially over England, Rose’s home. Due to Roses' ancestry, family, age and fertility, she is enlisted as part of the elite caste, a Geli. Her whole life is dictated by the caste division and rules; her job, food habits, clothing and even entertainment that she could enjoy. The whole Society lives by the rules from the mainland; a Nazy Germany, and is divided in these castes, specially the women, whereas Gelis are considered the top class and Friedas - widows - the lowest. Rose works as a book analyst, mainly because of her access to books and her lover who works in the high power government sector. Her job is to alter the meaning of subversive books - particularly the classical books - in order to maintain the population illiterate and the government in control. Rose's has a great love for literature and begins to question the system, as well as to notice a revolutionary feeling start to erupt - namely at the widowland. This political and yet emotional story is full of depth and kept a crescendo pace until the end. This is a strong feminist story, where we learn the power of literature to fight against tyranny and oppression, specially in the hands of strong women.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    Widowland is an alternate history speculative novel which, while it has some beautiful writing, turned out to be fairly derivative of many other such books, a kind of Fatherland/Handmaids Tale hybrid where the alternate history aspects weren't quite spot on in feel. I should probably point out that not liking this too much is more about me than it is about the book. I'm weary of the subjugation -of -women - warning plot-men bad narrative that seems to be the thing at the moment, whilst it's an in Widowland is an alternate history speculative novel which, while it has some beautiful writing, turned out to be fairly derivative of many other such books, a kind of Fatherland/Handmaids Tale hybrid where the alternate history aspects weren't quite spot on in feel. I should probably point out that not liking this too much is more about me than it is about the book. I'm weary of the subjugation -of -women - warning plot-men bad narrative that seems to be the thing at the moment, whilst it's an interesting concept in theory it soon grows old when you realise you are reading basically the same thing in the we start here and end there sense. The literary aspects- rewriting classics to a current social construct- was the one aspect that gave this a bit of a lift - but overall it didnt really offer anything new to ponder on this particular topic. The writing is lovely though. I believe the real identity of the author as poet shows here, the prose is poetic and if you love this kind of narrative then you'll likely really love this.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    Widowland is a compelling dystopian alternative history and richly imagined and totally convincing portrait of what 1950s Britain might have been like as a German Protectorate, where the role and status of women is of special interest to those in power. Within a thrilling narrative of revenge and redemption, C J Carey has pictured every detail of how such a society might have been, and readers will cheer as the heroine Rose Ransom wins through in the end. A riveting read with richly descriptive Widowland is a compelling dystopian alternative history and richly imagined and totally convincing portrait of what 1950s Britain might have been like as a German Protectorate, where the role and status of women is of special interest to those in power. Within a thrilling narrative of revenge and redemption, C J Carey has pictured every detail of how such a society might have been, and readers will cheer as the heroine Rose Ransom wins through in the end. A riveting read with richly descriptive worldbuilding and a thoroughly atmospheric sense of time and place, this is a stunning novel.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Girl with her Head in a Book

    For my full review: https://girlwithherheadinabook.co.uk/... The year is 1953. The flags are all out for the Coronation. Huge crowds are expected. But rather than the new young Queen Elizabeth approaching the throne, instead Westminster Abbey is preparing to crown King Edward VIII and Queen Wallis. Thirteen years have passed since Britain and Germany formed an alliance, the subsequent abrupt disappearance of King George VI and his young family and the return of Edward VIII. Yet in practice, power For my full review: https://girlwithherheadinabook.co.uk/... The year is 1953. The flags are all out for the Coronation. Huge crowds are expected. But rather than the new young Queen Elizabeth approaching the throne, instead Westminster Abbey is preparing to crown King Edward VIII and Queen Wallis. Thirteen years have passed since Britain and Germany formed an alliance, the subsequent abrupt disappearance of King George VI and his young family and the return of Edward VIII. Yet in practice, power rests in the hands of the Protector Alfred Rosenberg and with most males shipped off to the continent, women outnumber men almost two to one. The status of females is of particular interest to the Protector, who has constructed a complex caste system. At the top are the 'Gelis', one of which is Rose Ransom, star employee at the Ministry of Culture, tasked with correcting the classics of literature to bring them further in line with the goals of the Alliance. But now she has a new assignment. Feminist slogans from literature are appearing around London. Somewhere there is a group of insurgents who seem to be planning to destabilise the Coronation. Suspicion falls on Widowland, the ghetto which houses those on the bottom rung of society - childless women over fifty. In this intricately constructed alternative history, C J Carey imagines the post-war defeat of Britain through a female lens and the results are electrifying. The central question of the novel is, 'what if a place existed where older women, already marginalised by society, were banished?' The author draws on her own experiences of widowhood as well as her research into the treatment of older woman in Germany during World War II. The real Rosenberg was genuinely attracted by the Brahmin caste system which he felt was the best way of managing women. With Widowland, Carey constructs an incredibly intricate alternate universe where this man's hateful vision is taken to its ultimate conclusion. There are six 'Female Classes'; below the young and blonde Gelis are the Klaras who produce four or more children. Then the Lenis who are the professional women, the Paulas who are the nurses, the Magdas who are the shop and factory employees and the Gretls who do the grunt work. Beneath all of them lurk the Friedas, the lowest of the low. In terms of alternate history, 'post-1945 if the Nazis had won' has been 'done' many times. Fatherland, The Man in the High Castle, SS-GB, Dominion ... the list goes on. So it is quite an achievement that Widowland feels like a fresh take on such a well-trodden topic. There is an incredible amount of detail to Carey's world-building which does rather unfold in history lecture form as we observe Rose's daily routine. We learn a great deal about the rules of this heavily-regulated state as well as the rumours which run around in whispers. While this method of exposition may not be to the taste of every reader, I found it utterly absorbing, grounding the story in haunting realism. Bluntly, this is a book which kept me up way past my bedtime. Like its literary ancestor Nineteen Eighty Four, Carey considers how a totalitarian state can reconstruct our way of thinking. This is very much dystopian fiction for book-lovers however as Rose analyses the heroines of literature and works to bring them into line with the Protectorate. Thus, Elizabeth Bennet becomes meek and learns her place. Jo March tones down her anger, sets down her pen and accepts her lot. Rose is startled by Jane Eyre, whose heroine questions her low status and then does not show sympathy to Mr Rochester when it is revealed that he has the affliction of an insane wife. The rules are that, 'No female protagonist should be overly intelligent, dominant or subversive, no woman should be rewarded for challenging a man, and no narrative should undermine in any way the Protector’s views of the natural relationship between the sexes.' I found this ordinance fascinating given the current literary landscape which bristles with trigger warnings and tuttings over problematic plots. Because even as Rose 'corrects' these books, their original messages are seeping through and her ossified mind is beginning to wake up. Widowland underlines the subversive power of literature and I absolutely loved it. Rose ponders Emma and how it could be a useful text in demonstrating how Emma Woodhouse is wrong to match-make for her lower-status friend Harriet Smith with higher status males. But yet. The book tells it wrong. 'Harriet gained self-confidence through her mistaken romance. She came to understand that high social class did not necessarily imply a finer character. Indeed, Austen seemed hellbent on undermining traditional class divisions and suggesting some difference between mere accomplishments and the deeper understanding that signals self-knowledge.' Having spent years defending Austen from charges of being 'just' a romance novelist or - worse - that her heroines were gold-diggers, it was gratifying to see Austen's quiet radicalism recognised. Unsurprisingly, the regime discourages female literacy. Girls are not taught to read until the age of eight and even after that, they are taught at a more basic level. The intended goal is that a female's vocabulary should be no more than two thirds that of a man. The risk of reading was 'that it could accidentally expand a child’s use of language. It might enchant and intoxicate her. Help her express herself in new and exciting ways.' It is the casual way that it is gently 'suggested' that a girl need not bother learning to read, such as when Rose's boss - a married older German who is also her lover - tells her that she should not read to her niece, 'You know the Party believes there is no shame in illiteracy. We discourage reading for lower orders. It's hardly revolutionary. American slaves weren’t permitted to read. For centuries Catholics held the mass in Latin. Besides, most people don’t actually want to read. They'd rather listen to the wireless or go to the movies. Once this new television gets off the ground, reading will wither away in a generation, you’ll see. People will fall out of the habit of reading, and once that happens, the mere act of reading will be harder.' That one feels particularly poignant given how few people I know enjoy reading. And as a committed campaigner against literary snobbery, I kind of hate myself for saying it but I could understand Carey's point that it 'requires discipline' to get through a six or seven hundred (or even more) page novel and if you're not in the habit, you're unlikely to try. I believe that life is short and that people should read what they enjoy. But I also wish wasn't the only person I know who has read Bleak House. I hate how often I have cringey experiences like the time my hairdresser called me an 'intellectual' because I turned up for an appointment with a copy of Middlemarch. There's nothing wrong with not reading but in the midst of my sleep-deprived new-parent haze, I also know that making (stealing) the time to read Anna Karenina really helped my scattered brain to regroup. The ability to sustain that kind of attention can feel like a lost art in a world which promotes instant gratification. But while Rose might have remained at the Ministry of Culture quietly updating novels and placidly submitting to her boss' unwelcome touch, mysterious happenings are afoot. The Leader, who we are led to believe is Hitler, is planning his first ever state visit to Britain to mark the coronation. Everything must be perfect. And yet in the midst of this, graffiti has been appearing with messages that the Leader must never see. And there are dark suggestions that the Coronation may just be the turning point for Britain towards something even worse. There is something rather delicious that the most organised threat to Rosenberg's regime comes from a highly literate group of middle-aged women - these are not the Katniss Everdeens or Paige Mahoneys but instead a band of 'difficult women'. Women who don't shut up, give up or throw in the towel. Women who don't forget. Women who have nothing to lose. Widowland also feels strangely topical. The Leader explained that 'Women are the most important citizens in this land'. These words are even carved into a bridge. And yet everywhere in the novel, women are erased, squashed down and forced to live according to definitions set by men. Their voices are silenced, their individuality effaced. The language around them is carefully managed, their vocabulary policed. It is a truth rarely acknowledged that whenever something claims to put women first, another self-seeking agenda will be found if you scratch at the surface. Yet although the women of Carey's Widowland are all being exploited in their different ways, we cannot excuse ourselves by discounting the story as fiction. Like a literary cousin to The Handmaid's Tale, the novel has pieced together a nightmarish setting out of things that have happened to women in history. But also from that which could befall us in the future. The end when it came struck like a sucker punch. Utterly immersed in the novel's claustrophobic setting, it was startling to be once more hurled back to the world outside. Yet despite my immediate wave of hope for a sequel, I can also see that returning to the scene would almost certainly lessen the novel's impact. Widowland never sets out to depict yet another ongoing franchise of despair. Its message is far more oblique. It takes no pleasure in depicting atrocities. The enemy here goes beyond Nazism. It is striking that 'the Leader' is never directly named as Hitler, although instead we have the sardonic observation that 'People liked the idea of a strong leader – they didn’t much care what that leader stood for'. The last few years have seen that statement proven to be accurate. Part thriller, part speculative fiction, Widowland is also a stunning hymn to the power of literature and to the courage of strong women. It was beautiful to read how these literary heroines who have only ever existed on the page were able to inspire Rose and to encourage her freedom of thought.  Widowland is also a novel that encourages its readers to know their history and specifically women's history. It tells us not to accept what we are being told via the mainstream media and social media clickbait. Not to mindlessly parrot the acceptable soundbites of the day. But to read in detail. The full article, not just the headline. Then do your background reading as well. The rapid washing machine cycle of instant news can make it feel that the double-plus-goodthink of Nineteen Eighty Four is already upon us. So this feminist re-imagining of a Big Brother state feels incredibly timely. A rollicking great ride of a novel as well as a feminist cautionary tale, I can already anticipate that I will be purchasing many copies.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Graceann

    Imagine a mingling of Fatherland, Vox, Handmaid's Tale, and other novels that change the story we grew up learning. Rose lives in 1953 England, a minor country in the German Alliance that began in 1940 when England essentially surrendered and King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and their two daughters were “removed.” Now, the country is gearing up for the Coronation of Queen Wallis and her husband, King Edward VIII. The Leader will be coming just to watch this great event. Women in this regime are Imagine a mingling of Fatherland, Vox, Handmaid's Tale, and other novels that change the story we grew up learning. Rose lives in 1953 England, a minor country in the German Alliance that began in 1940 when England essentially surrendered and King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and their two daughters were “removed.” Now, the country is gearing up for the Coronation of Queen Wallis and her husband, King Edward VIII. The Leader will be coming just to watch this great event. Women in this regime are now classified by various levels of usefulness to the Alliance. Rose resides in the highest classification, for now, but one wrong move can get her reclassified. Everything depends on the classification: food rations, what clothing you're allowed to wear, the activities in which you're allowed to take part, and whether you live or die. But something is happening that is troubling the powers that be. Graffiti featuring quotes from “degenerate” literature are appearing in random places around England. Rose is tasked with finding out who is doing it and turning them in for punishment. In doing so, she uncovers things that she had no idea were in process. All in all, I thought Widowland was a page-turning, cracking read. I was initially (and remained throughout the read) terribly confused by the various classifications cited for women in this alternative world created by Carey. I lost count after about five, and there were really only two that mattered to the story in any great degree: highest and lowest. Any of the others I just could not keep track of, and it wasn't until I was a fair way in to the story that I realized I didn't really need to do so, because this is all about Rose and her investigations into the denizens of Widowland. Until I came to that realization, however, it did slow and weigh down my experience with Widowland, and I wish it could have been just slightly more streamlined. Intrigue, subterfuge, suspense, and even a little humour. Widowland has most things you could ask for from a novel. Contrasting this world that could have been with the world that is was a rewarding experience. I thank the author and NetGalley for allowing me access to Widowland in exchange for my honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Maine Colonial

    Like Robert Harris’s Fatherland and C. J. Sansom’s Dominion, this novel imagines that rather than the Allies defeating Germany and the Axis powers in World War II, Britain has become part of a greater Europe controlled by Europe. With maybe slightly more autonomy than other European nations, Britain has become a repressive regime, reflecting many of the same abusive racial, social and sexual rules of Germany. In the 1950s, Rose Ransom works at the Ministry of Culture, where her job is to rewrite Like Robert Harris’s Fatherland and C. J. Sansom’s Dominion, this novel imagines that rather than the Allies defeating Germany and the Axis powers in World War II, Britain has become part of a greater Europe controlled by Europe. With maybe slightly more autonomy than other European nations, Britain has become a repressive regime, reflecting many of the same abusive racial, social and sexual rules of Germany. In the 1950s, Rose Ransom works at the Ministry of Culture, where her job is to rewrite literature so that it reflects the proper attitudes, particularly as regards women. They must not be pert, like Elizabeth Bennett, opinionated, like Jo March, or in any way different from the narrow roles allowed by the so-called Alliance (between Britain and Germany). Women in Britain have been allocated to castes, which are popularly referred to by women’s names. Rose is in the top caste, called a “Geli.” (After Geli Raubal, who was Hitler’s niece with whom he had an intense relationship before Raubal killed herself.) There are several other castes, which determine what kinds of jobs are allowed, whom one may marry, what rations one receives, where one may live, shop and go for entertainment, and so on. Like many Gelis, Rose is in a relationship with an SS man. Martin Kreuz works in her ministry and claims he loves her, but he is married. Rose has come to despise him in any case, and maintains a facade with him for self-preservation. The head of Rose’s ministry tasks her with assisting him in his research involving distant history of British folktales, thinking to link them with German history. She is sent to interview old ladies in Oxford. These ladies live in poverty in what is called the Widowland. Rose begins to learn more about the more recent past through this pursuit and from other sources. And her own work can’t help but make her see that there was once a different world and different aspirations for women, as well as for others viewed as lessers by the Nazis and the Alliance. Tensions are on the rise in Britain as preparations reach a fever pitch for the coronation of King Edward VIII and Queen Wallis, which will bring a visit from The Leader. Resistance activities ramp up as well, and suspicion has fallen on Widowland, where many women are educated and feel they have nothing left to lose. Her time in Widowland sets Rose’s mind along new paths, and when she learns a momentous secret about the governance of her country, she must make decisions that will change her life and those of everyone she cares about. I was more impressed than I thought I would be by this face-paced thriller. Author Carey builds a detailed Alliance world and shows how social mores can be altered within one generation with a concerted effort, including literally rewriting history and literature. Rose is not idealized at all. She is an intelligent woman, but one who is compliant with the regime until she reaches her breaking point. This seems much more realistic than a main character who is rebellious from the start. A well-executed alternate history.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kay Smillie

    The wonderful 'what ifs' raised in this book... - What if the UK surrendered and had been taken over by Nazi Germany in the 1950s? - What if the people in the UK had no idea what was happening in the rest of the world? - What if women were placed into castes according to how useful they were, and had to follow every rule and regulation, made by men, by law? - What if some women couldn't read or write because they were in a low caste and not worth bothering about? For example, over fifty and childles The wonderful 'what ifs' raised in this book... - What if the UK surrendered and had been taken over by Nazi Germany in the 1950s? - What if the people in the UK had no idea what was happening in the rest of the world? - What if women were placed into castes according to how useful they were, and had to follow every rule and regulation, made by men, by law? - What if some women couldn't read or write because they were in a low caste and not worth bothering about? For example, over fifty and childless? - What if books were 're-edited' to remove subversive words in order not to put any ideas into women's minds and to formulate the 'perfectly indoctrinated woman'? The main character, Rose Ransom, is 'lucky' to be in the highest caste, to have a job (she's a re-editor), and be a mistress to a Nazi. To be honest, despite those things, she doesn't seem to have much of a personality, perhaps it's just me? I would've loved to have had more of a backstory for the lower caste women. Having said all that, really enjoyed this book and it held my attention from the first page to the last. I chose to voluntarily read an eARC copy of this work via NetGalley, which I then honestly reviewed. All opinions are my own.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nisha Joshi

    This book didn't work out for me. The premise was wonderful - what if there was no World War and Britain decided to act for Germany as its Protectorate? Women have been divided into castes. The protagonist is of the higher caste that allows her more freedom yet she has numerous restrictions to pass. Life in Britain is dull and grey. There is a shortage of everything. Our heroine has a good life in comparison to others. But the book meanders and there is not much impactful in it in the end. It jus This book didn't work out for me. The premise was wonderful - what if there was no World War and Britain decided to act for Germany as its Protectorate? Women have been divided into castes. The protagonist is of the higher caste that allows her more freedom yet she has numerous restrictions to pass. Life in Britain is dull and grey. There is a shortage of everything. Our heroine has a good life in comparison to others. But the book meanders and there is not much impactful in it in the end. It just goes on and ends. 3 stars. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Book Wormy

    #ARC #Netgalley #Widowland Alternate history that feels eerily like today’s society…. Firstly I have to say that some of the techniques used by the oppressive regimes in this story feel unsettling familiar given what is happening in today’s society. Those in charge were able to break the rules they had imposed on the general public with little fear of retribution or “justice”. The main stream media is only allowed to report on news sanctioned by the government leading to a society that has no balanc #ARC #Netgalley #Widowland Alternate history that feels eerily like today’s society…. Firstly I have to say that some of the techniques used by the oppressive regimes in this story feel unsettling familiar given what is happening in today’s society. Those in charge were able to break the rules they had imposed on the general public with little fear of retribution or “justice”. The main stream media is only allowed to report on news sanctioned by the government leading to a society that has no balance of opinion and that blindly believes what they are told because there is no information provided that questions it. I loved the idea of a department to make changes to classical literature to make it fit the message of the regime but in a way that makes the reader believe they are reading the story as it was actually written. I also loved the way that reading the literature she was editing began to make Rose think and to question why things were as they were. As every oppressive regime knows reading and free thought are dangerous things. Overall I enjoyed this book, it made me think and reminded me that we are not as far removed from the past as we would like to believe. Be warned though the ending totally leaves itself open for a sequel. Full review here https://thereadersroom.org/2021/06/19...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nisreen Mohamedali

    "Our Protector believes that books are every bit as dangerous as bombs. Words are weapons, aren't they? They're a conduit for spreading propaganda against the Alliance. Back in the beginning, as you know we tackled this problem with a fairly blunt instrument. We banned them. Obviously you know that novels portraying a subversive view of females are outlawed. Unruly women, those who challenge male authority, degenerate sexual preferences, all that. But we can't make all books illegal can we? Can't "Our Protector believes that books are every bit as dangerous as bombs. Words are weapons, aren't they? They're a conduit for spreading propaganda against the Alliance. Back in the beginning, as you know we tackled this problem with a fairly blunt instrument. We banned them. Obviously you know that novels portraying a subversive view of females are outlawed. Unruly women, those who challenge male authority, degenerate sexual preferences, all that. But we can't make all books illegal can we? Can't we?" C.J. Carey. Widowland is a feminist dystopian novel that explores what Britain could have looked life if Britain and Germany had made peace after WW2 and Germany ruled over England. What if England had a Protector? What if the royal family had been killed and they brought back Edward and Wallis since he was German friendly? The story explores what life could have been like if the Nazi ideology of the superiority of the Aryan race was implemented in England. Women are divided into a caste system based on their appearance and their fertility. Food and housing was allocated to you based on your caste- resources were not wasted on the old and childless. Rose Ransom who is employed by the Ministry of Culture to edit classic texts to make them align with the ideology of the new regime. But then suddenly, graffiti starts appearing on public buildings, which is made up of lines from famous texts. Who is responsible for this rebellion? Rose must find out... I love a good dystopian novel, and it's been a while since I picked one up. I love the way a dystopian novel makes you consider alternative societies and challenges what we consider normal- and this book did all of those things.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lorna Holland

    Full review now up on the blog: https://www.thewritinggreyhound.co.uk... Uniquely gripping, Widowland imagines a chilling alternate history with a strong dystopian twist. The alternate world is well fleshed out and eerily realistic. It's hard to believe that an England like this could easily have existed, yet that only makes the story all the more powerful. There is also a strong feminist element to the book. In a society where women vastly outnumber men, interesting social dynamics and an unset Full review now up on the blog: https://www.thewritinggreyhound.co.uk... Uniquely gripping, Widowland imagines a chilling alternate history with a strong dystopian twist. The alternate world is well fleshed out and eerily realistic. It's hard to believe that an England like this could easily have existed, yet that only makes the story all the more powerful. There is also a strong feminist element to the book. In a society where women vastly outnumber men, interesting social dynamics and an unsettling caste system determine almost every aspect of their lives. However, as the main character Rose soon discovers, there are always those who are willing to fight for their rights, equality, and ultimately, their freedom. Once the world and characters have been established, it isn't long before the pace picks up and soon, the plot is moving towards its thrilling conclusion. It is fast-paced towards the end, so be warned - you won't be able to put it down! The ending also leaves several key questions unanswered and some main plot points unfinished. This achieves a heightened sense of tension and also leaves the plot open-ended for the reader to draw their own conclusion from the events at the end of the book. Widowland is one of the most original, thought-provoking books I've read in a long time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anne Goodwin

    Part thriller, part misogynist dystopia, part tribute to the humanising power of literature, this is a fun novel which reminds us never to take our freedom for granted. https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecd... Part thriller, part misogynist dystopia, part tribute to the humanising power of literature, this is a fun novel which reminds us never to take our freedom for granted. https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecd...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    Date reviewed/posted: May 12, 2021 Publication date: June 10, 2021 When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #thirdwave (#fourthwave #fifthwave?) is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exc Date reviewed/posted: May 12, 2021 Publication date: June 10, 2021 When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #thirdwave (#fourthwave #fifthwave?) is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. To control the past, they edited history. To control the future, they edited literature. An alternative history with a strong feminist twist, perfect for fans of Robert Harris' Fatherland, C. J. Sansom's Dominion and the dystopian novels of Margaret Atwood To control the past, they edited history. To control the future, they edited literature. London, 1953, Coronation year - but not the Coronation of Elizabeth II. Thirteen years have passed since a Grand Alliance between Great Britain and Germany was formalized. George VI and his family have been murdered and Edward VIII rules as King. Yet, in practice, all power is vested in Alfred Rosenberg, Britain's Protector. Britain is the perfect petri dish for the ideal society, and the role and status of women is Roseberg's particular interest. Under the Rosenberg regulations, women are divided into a number of castes according to age, heritage, reproductive status and physical characteristics. Rose belongs to the elite caste of Gelis. She works at the Ministry of Culture rewriting literature to correct the views of the past. She has been charged with making Jane Eyre more submissive, Elizabeth Bennett less feisty and Dorothea Brooke less intelligent. One morning she is summoned to the Cultural Commissioner's office and given a special task. Outbreaks of insurgency have been seen across the country. Graffiti has been daubed on public buildings. Disturbingly, the graffiti is made up of lines from famous works, subversive lines from the voices of women. Suspicion has fallen on Widowland, the run-down slums inhabited by childless women over fifty, the lowest caste. These women are known to be mutinous, for they seem to have lost their fear. Before the Leader arrives for the Coronation ceremony, Rose must infiltrate Widowland and find the source of this rebellion. But as she begins to investigate, she discovers something that could change the protectorate forever, and in the process change herself and before the Leader arrives for the Coronation ceremony of King Edward and Queen Wallis, Rose must infiltrate Widowland to find the source of this rebellion and ensure that it is quashed. What a wonderful, albeit horrible reimagining of history! Queen Wallis? (Oh, G-d, help us all…Baltimore’s whore is wider than the Potomac!) but given their admiration of Hitler, this is completely believable…and we may not have had Me-Again Markle on our hands had Elizabeth not become Queen so that would have been a bonus. The alternate history was expertly crafted and stayed true to its path and the characters were awesome. The ladies of Widowland are forces to be reckoned with, for sure --- I certainly would not want to piss them off. I cannot imagine a submissive Jane Eyre, a non-feisty Elizabeth Bennet, etc. – this is starting to sound like Communist China or North Korea and its tendency to rewrite history! Hubby is even reading it now as he wanted to know what was capturing my attention so much! This is a historical “fiction” book that will ring true for years - I will recommend this book to friends, family, patrons, book clubs and strangers on the tube who are reading: I find that once they figure out that I am a Canadian and not a Trump-loving MAGA-idiot they like to discuss books. (lol!) Take this book to the beach (or your back yard, porch or balcony) and enjoy it - just wear a tonne of SPF110 as you will lose track of time as you read this. - If we are in the 5th or 6th wave/mutation of COVID19 by then, stay inside: no tan is worth dying for. ( #maddogsandenglishmen ) As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🏖️🏖️🏖️🏖️🏖️

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vivienne

    “Just imagine, if things had gone differently, it might be a different monarch being crowned next week. We could have a Queen Elizabeth instead of a Queen Wallis” - ‘Widowland’ My thanks to Quercus Books for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Widowland’ by C J Carey in exchange for an honest review. I found this a brilliantly realised work of alternative history that was also a tense dystopian thriller. I bought its unabridged audiobook edition on the day of publication and did a combined read/listen for m “Just imagine, if things had gone differently, it might be a different monarch being crowned next week. We could have a Queen Elizabeth instead of a Queen Wallis” - ‘Widowland’ My thanks to Quercus Books for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Widowland’ by C J Carey in exchange for an honest review. I found this a brilliantly realised work of alternative history that was also a tense dystopian thriller. I bought its unabridged audiobook edition on the day of publication and did a combined read/listen for much of it. I zoomed through it as had to know what happened. London, 1953. The country is excited about the upcoming Coronation. Yet as soon as we learn that it is Edward VIII and Queen Wallis being crowned, its clear that this is a very different 1953. In 1940 a Grand Alliance between Great Britain and Germany was formalized. George VI and his family went the way of the Romanovs. While Edward VIII rules in name, all power is vested in Alfred Rosenberg, Britain's Protector. Rosenberg's particular interest is the roles and status of women. To this end he has instituted a caste system for all women. The novel’s lead is Rose Ransom. She has been designated as a ‘Gelis’, a member of the elite caste of women. She works at the Ministry of Culture and is tasked with rewriting literature, such as the works of Jane Austen and the Brontës, to correct the views of the past. Then she is assigned a secret task for the Protector. With the Leader (Hitler, though unnamed) coming to Britain to attend the Coronation ceremony, there are increasing outbreaks of insurgency across the country. Of great concern is graffiti that quotes lines from forbidden works by women. The Protector believes that the source of this dissent lies in the run-down slums known as Widowland, where childless women over fifty are banished. Rose must infiltrate Widowland to find the source of this rebellion and ensure that it is quashed. Wow! ‘Widowland’ was phenomenal and ticked all my boxes for a dark alternative history with Orwellian overtones. While it has drawn comparisons with other dystopian novels, I fully expect that ‘Widowland’ is strong enough to soon be considered a new benchmark in the dystopian sub-genre. I especially appreciated the focus on ‘correcting’ both literature and history in order to ensure that people do not get ideas. As one character comments to Rose: “if we can control what people know of history we control memory too.” In a world increasingly plagued by disinformation it’s an important point. ‘Widowland’ is a novel that celebrates literature. In writing of her work of correcting novels Rose muses: “Was he so convinced of her stupidity and her incurious nature that he thought she could spend every day with these texts and see them as mere words – as weeds – rather than ideas that would take root and blossom and flourish within her?” Like her literary predecessors these words change her forever. Yet at what cost? I also appreciated the depiction of the ordinariness of life for many in this alternative fifties Britain. While Rose has to ensure that her every action and word does not betray her growing sense of dissent, daily life goes on around her. There is excitement about the upcoming Coronation, the planned street parties, and interest in fashion and celebrities. It was a nice touch demonstrating that even in repressive regimes not all experience it as a dystopia. C J Carey is the pen name of established journalist and author, Jane Thynne. I found her writing style confident and I was completely drawn into the alternative history that she proposed. I was left moved and inspired by ‘Widowland’. It is extremely readable and packed full of thought provoking ideas. It is definitely one of my top reads of 2021. I also expect that it will be a popular choice with reading groups given its subject matter, Carey’s excellent writing and the scope of topics for discussion. On a side note, Quercus Books’ art department have excelled themselves in a simple, yet powerful cover design. I have ordered its hardback as I plan to reread. Very highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Bridgeman

    Huge thanks to Milly Reid for inviting me to join the publication day blog blast for 'Widowland' by C.J Carey, out in e-book and hardcover formats from Quercus Books! And thank you for my gifted e-book review copy from which I have untangled my honest, but possibly poorly written, opinion! It's so hard when a book hits you with such emotional resonance to find the words when you just want to say 'Do yourself a favour and get a copy'. In an alternative to what we know as the 1950's, Edward VIII is Huge thanks to Milly Reid for inviting me to join the publication day blog blast for 'Widowland' by C.J Carey, out in e-book and hardcover formats from Quercus Books! And thank you for my gifted e-book review copy from which I have untangled my honest, but possibly poorly written, opinion! It's so hard when a book hits you with such emotional resonance to find the words when you just want to say 'Do yourself a favour and get a copy'. In an alternative to what we know as the 1950's, Edward VIII is marrying Wallis Simpson, the book opens with the coronation ceremony and the sense of tangible excitement as a television is wheeled in for all in the Ministry of Culture to witness this historic moment. When you realise that it is not our queen, and to all intents and purposes her lineage has been ended, the impact on the reader and the society of the UK is immensely sobering. In a clever and thrilling yet deceptively simple swap, CJ Carey has not only removed the longest serving monarch in British history, she also forces us to re-examine her effect on the way women are viewed through a political, historical and societal lens. For here we have a society where women outnumber men, thereby 'necessitating' a means of control, a divide and conquer rationale if you will, which includes the banishment of older, childless women to a barren (pun intended) wasteland. It is here that our protagonist, Rose, whose purpose is to rewrite books with feisty heroines to make them more subservient, is sent undercover in order to spy on this rogue group of women who hold fast to the those literary heroines, the ones that stood their ground and became beacons of choice and hope. The appropriately named heroine- 'rose' as a verb as well as implying the blooming or blossoming of consciousness-leaps from elite class to outcast and as she sees the way that these women have elected to step outside the norm, to be their own person, will she betray the women she has been sent to spy on? How far will she go to retain the status quo which keeps her trapped? This is a brilliantly executed and moving novel with the added poignance of the author's widowhood, parallel with the Queen, so recently bereaved. It throughs into significance the way that the function of women becomes almost invisible once they enter the menopausal arena (and I call it that because it feels like a daily battle) and are no longer perceived as of value. Their voices are shut down, the fight to retain youthfulness is on, to keep a semblance of desirability and to straddle that no (wo)man's land that so many seem to be stranded in (Is she 40?50? 60? Was she blessed with great genes or maybe it's Maybelline?) Once reproductive function has gone, it seems that women are discarded or intended to be the ones looking after the next generation -the granny/nanny debate. So much in this novel resonated hard and fast with me-as someone has grown up with a perception of girls as pointless, useless and there to be seen and not heard (from my mother!) and who is now the proud mum of 5 wonderful and very fearsome daughters, I can absolutely appreciate the way that heroines from books were very much figures that have been in my head and heart since childhood. The influence of books and the implication that they lead to insurrection and dangerous think is not a new one but the way that this written, and brilliantly imagined, hit home so much more than novels like 'The Handmaid's Tale', in this reader's humble opinion (I never could get on with Margaret Atwood, sorry it just never really gripped me). Hugely moving, very much recommended and leaving the reader pondering over so many things after reading, 'Widowland' is one of those special books that you will find yourself recommending over the coming years.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Angela Connaughton

    It’s 1953, but not as we know it. England is getting ready for a Coronation – but not Elizabeth’s. In this captivating, dystopian novel by C.J. Carey - novelist, journalist, broadcaster and alter-ego of writer Jane Thynne, Hitler’s Germany has won the second World War and a Grand Alliance has been established between Germany and Great Britain, with Edward V111 and Mrs. Simpson as soon-to-be King and Queen, and Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler’s philosopher guru, landing his passionately aspired-to role a It’s 1953, but not as we know it. England is getting ready for a Coronation – but not Elizabeth’s. In this captivating, dystopian novel by C.J. Carey - novelist, journalist, broadcaster and alter-ego of writer Jane Thynne, Hitler’s Germany has won the second World War and a Grand Alliance has been established between Germany and Great Britain, with Edward V111 and Mrs. Simpson as soon-to-be King and Queen, and Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler’s philosopher guru, landing his passionately aspired-to role as “Protector” of England, aka “the Protectorate”. Although this is fiction, many of the characters existed in the actual Schutzstaffel (SS) task force established by Rosenberg, who was notorious for his particular distrust of literature, libraries and women. The author’s obvious and extensive knowledge of WW2 history and Nazi ideology is central to this book and provides an engrossing and fascinating account of a terrifyingly counterfactual yet utterly believable alternative world, where control is everything and anything that fails to fit the prescribed narrative is either edited or erased. In Rosenberg’s England, every female over the age of fourteen is summoned for classification - a system designed to control women lest they become mutinous, and under which information such as family and health history, race, age and reproductive status determines their caste. Their caste, in turn, influences everything from where they live to what they eat; whether they can work; what, if any, entertainment they can enjoy and what clothes they can wear. The hierarchy of the caste system ranges from the elite caste, popularly known as Gelis, through to the bottom of the pile – the Freidas, a diminutive of the nick-name Friedhofefrauen, meaning cemetery women, and there are no prizes for guessing the fate that awaits ‘these widows and spinsters over fifty who had no children, no reproductive purpose, and who did not serve a man’. Rose, the novel’s central character, is a member of the Geli caste – the golden ticket, ostensibly, but only when compared to the circumstances of those below. Rose works for the Cultural Ministry and is tasked with removing perceived subversive texts from the literature she loves. Rose is an intelligent woman for whom inventing a narrative that presents Jane Eyre as submissive, or Elizabeth Bennett as dull, to support the ideology of her employer, severely conflicts with her innate feminist beliefs. There are many very interesting aspects to this book, not least the indestructible might of women. In a presumably unintended nod to present-day pandemic-inspired dystopia, it examines how the course of history can be changed in the blink of an eye and prompts inevitable questions about the compromises people are prepared to make for the “greater good”, and how humans can adapt to imposed changes and rules that would previously have been considered intolerable. Although superbly written, with warmth and accessibility, there is much about this novel that feels rehashed (Handmaid’s Tale, Fatherland, etc.). The lyricism of the writing sometimes jars with the very disconcerting circumstances; where characters “clip down steps” and “exchange knowing smiles” while in perpetual and plausible dread of what their futures hold. The factual content of the novel is arguably its mainstay and is expertly and intriguingly woven into fiction, but it heaves with detail in the centre sections while drawing to an abrupt and slightly unsatisfying finish, leaving much unrevealed and unresolved. A sequel in the making, perhaps? On the whole, Widowland is an absorbing depiction of a Nazi-controlled Britain which, although not entirely original, delivers a chilling, clever, lively, relevant and thought-provoking read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine Douglas

    It’s 1953 and the UK, having chosen to submit to Germany rather than going to war, is now the junior partner in the Alliance. There’s going to be a coronation for King Edward and Queen Wallis, with George VI and his family missing and presumed murdered, and the occasion is the cause of a state visit from the Leader, never named here as Hitler, although many of his contemporaries are named. ‘People liked the idea of a strong leader – they didn’t much care what that leader stood for,’ goes the exp It’s 1953 and the UK, having chosen to submit to Germany rather than going to war, is now the junior partner in the Alliance. There’s going to be a coronation for King Edward and Queen Wallis, with George VI and his family missing and presumed murdered, and the occasion is the cause of a state visit from the Leader, never named here as Hitler, although many of his contemporaries are named. ‘People liked the idea of a strong leader – they didn’t much care what that leader stood for,’ goes the explanation, sounding all too plausible. The regime’s major focus, in the UK at least, has been the organising of women into different castes, according to factors such as their reproductive value to society. The different castes have been given female names relevant to Hitler, ranging from the relatively privileged Geli caste (young, attractive women) to Friedas (women aged over 50 who have no children, and who live in semi-derelict ghettos on the outskirts of cities). The caste system has obvious parallels with The Handmaid’s Tale, although female sexuality and fertility are so often a focus of control for governments, societies and cultures that it’s not too much of a stretch to see this theme repeated. The protagonist in Widowland is Rose Ransom, a Geli who has a job with the Ministry of Culture and is having an affair with a senior SS officer. Rose’s job involves editing classic novels to bring them more into line with present day values, mainly correcting novels which have independently-minded heroines. Her work gradually starts to affect her, and she finds it harder and harder to ignore the writings of authors such as the Bronte sisters and George Eliot. In parallel with Rose’s exposure to literary classics, a resistance group, believed by the authorities to be Friedas, has started vandalising public buildings with slogans taken from classic feminist texts. There’s an obvious celebration of the power of literature going on in Widowland. For me, the defiant acts of vandalism struck a more convincing note than the scenes involving Rose reflecting on her reading, or doing furtive bits of writing herself. Some of these scenes seemed to have an escapist effect on Rose that threatened to take the novel into a gentler territory than it could afford to be in, given the subject matter. In fact, my one real criticism of this novel is that the pace and the tone are too gentle until about two thirds of the way through, when it finally finds some grit and suspense. For example, we’re told early on that there are dead bodies everywhere throughout London, suggesting state-approved violence on a grand scale, yet we’re never shown this violence happening in real time. There are hints here and there about things happening to Jewish people, although the information has been suppressed, leading to a strangely subdued account of the period. I think Widowland, like The Handmaid’s Tale before it, would benefit from greater prominence being given to lower-caste characters. Rose, in her position of relative privilege and ignorance, has a very limited view for much of the novel, until things finally reach a momentum that means she needs to decide which side she is on. The older, more widely educated Friedas, with their greater knowledge of pre-Nazi times, could have added more vigour to the early stages of the book, had they featured more. I enjoyed reading Widowland, can imagine that it would work well in film or TV, and I was fully engrossed by the end. Given that the story contained actual Nazis in action, though, I think that a bolder touch early on could have elevated this from being a good book to a great one.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Philippa

    Thank you to Negalley, the publisher and the author for the free advanced e-copy of this book. Widowland is a gripping story that takes place in an alternative history where rather than Churchill taking over as Prime Minister and taking us into World War Two, an alliance is formed between Great Britain and Nazi Germany, with Britain very much the subjugated partner. The novel focuses on the way this affects women and explores the Nazi ideals of womanhood. All women in the country are given a rank Thank you to Negalley, the publisher and the author for the free advanced e-copy of this book. Widowland is a gripping story that takes place in an alternative history where rather than Churchill taking over as Prime Minister and taking us into World War Two, an alliance is formed between Great Britain and Nazi Germany, with Britain very much the subjugated partner. The novel focuses on the way this affects women and explores the Nazi ideals of womanhood. All women in the country are given a rank within society: pretty women with the required blonde hair and blue eyes are the most powerful whilst older, childless women are the lowest of the low and given very little in the way of accommodation, clothing and food. Our protagonist is Rose. One of the elite women, who works for the government in the culture department, and is in an adulterous relationship with one of the high-ranking German men that control everything in the country. We follow her as she is sent on a mission to speak to the older, lowest ranking women. There were many things to enjoy about this novel, and I did enjoy it enormously. It really is the kind of book you can race through in a couple of days. The characters are interesting and, on the whole, well rounded. The setting is generally intriguing, giving as it does, an insight into what it would have been like had Germany won. I particularly liked the fact that women were given ranks – it reminded me of Brave New World and it is just an interesting concept. The fact that everyone knows who is which rank and what that means works really well. In a physical copy though, it would be useful to have an appendix where these are listed and explained as it is hard to keep track of what every one means. The plot was very strong – the story barrelled along and was gripping and intriguing – I was totally hooked and carried away by it. Other reviewers have commented on the novel’s clear links to other more famous works and for me, it gave me a strong feeling of 1984 and as I’ve said, Brave New World. The big comparison is, of course, Fatherland which I have yet to read! Due to its clear links to period it, in my opinion, didn’t really link with Atwood or Vox. It read like 1984 with a female protagonist to me and there was absolutely nothing wrong about that – and perhaps controversially – it had a better ending! The ending is very good – probably completely inevitable given its subject matter but I would have still appreciated an epilogue, unnecessary as it clearly is! One of the novel’s weaknesses, is perhaps its unoriginality, but to me that really wasn’t a problem as I enjoyed a different view of some classics. Another for me was the romance between two of the characters which could have been significantly better developed and believable. I like my romance intense – this one seemed ‘phoned in’… as though an editor had suggested it needed a bit more emotion so it was shoe-horned in. A real pity because who doesn’t love a bit of romance against the odds? Other people have complained a bit about some of the clichés – heart shaped faces, etc, and whilst I agree with these comments, they didn’t detract from the whole story for me. The only thing that bugs me, looking back, is the fact of the rations and the lack of things in the 1950s – if it hadn’t been for the war would there have been food and clothing shortages? Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this and despite its flaws, I give it four stars because it was well plotted, and I got a great deal of pleasure from reading it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jessica M

    http://jessjustreads.com Set in England in the 1950s, C.J Carey’s Widowland is a dystopian tale of political power that has altered history and presented an alternate timeline in which women are separated into a caste system, characterised by their age and breeding ability. C.J Carey imagines a world where Germany and Great Britain did not go to war in 1939. Rather, they formed an alliance and now Germany rules Europe. England is under Germany’s thumb, and life for the British is far from enjoyabl http://jessjustreads.com Set in England in the 1950s, C.J Carey’s Widowland is a dystopian tale of political power that has altered history and presented an alternate timeline in which women are separated into a caste system, characterised by their age and breeding ability. C.J Carey imagines a world where Germany and Great Britain did not go to war in 1939. Rather, they formed an alliance and now Germany rules Europe. England is under Germany’s thumb, and life for the British is far from enjoyable. Life for women is even worse — they’re subservient to men, and freedom and creativity appear stamped out. Our protagonist, Rose, works for the Ministry of Culture and is tasked with editing literature to remove any elements of corruption. “A shiver ran through Rose. It was the kind of electric thrill that she could not explain, as though something deep within her had momentarily stirred. As though the words had reached inside and kindled there, as hot and as urgent as flames.” The atmosphere is one of the strengths of the novel — there’s a rising sense of unease within each page, and sometimes more is left unsaid during pivotal moments of plot. The world-building is another strength, taking us deep inside an alternate reality that also feels strangely familiar. I don’t feel like I’ve read a novel quite like this before. Whilst the novel is written in third person POV, we do spend a lot of time in Rose’s mind — C.J offers a very intimate examination of how Rose thinks and feels. Rose’s character development is two-fold. Firstly, she’s in the midst of an affair with a married man, and over the course of the novel she’ll come to realise what it really is to love another person and sacrifice elements of your life for them. And secondly, Rose’s life is quite sheltered when we meet her — she’s privileged and quite naive about women who are not as elevated in society as her. Once she starts travelling into Widowland and meeting the disadvantaged women who reside there, and hearing their stories, we can actually feel her world start to open up. “For the past month Rose had been correcting a version of stories by the Grimm Brothers to be distributed in schools and kindergartens, as well as bride schools and mother training centres. Fairy tales were an important part of childhood conditioning.” Admittedly, the pacing is quite slow and Rose’s characterisation is a bit dull at times. She fades a little into the story, and I’m not sure she’s the compelling protagonist she could’ve been. I think you have to be a seasoned reader to persevere with this title, because it feels like and at times, arduous. And additionally, there’s a secondary romance that builds in the second half of the story and it felt thinly developed and rushed. I’m not sure enough time was given to this pair to really build a believable romance. “Since the restriction of religion, there was only one place to which the populace reliably turned for consolation, contemplation, relaxation and human companionship. The cinema.” Rich with detail, Widowland evokes an atmosphere similar to George Orwell and Margaret Atwood. Recommended for literary readers and fans of dystopian novels. Readership skews female, 30+ Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kath

    Well, this was a little different to my usual reads but, I hasten to add, definitely in a good way. I do like to mix it up a bit every so often and thought that this book would fit that bill nicely; and I wasn't wrong. It's set in the UK in 1953 but not the 1953 we all know. Prior to that year, an alliance was formed between GB and Germany which has led to all sorts of knock on effects. We catch up with the action in the time leading up to the Coronation of Edward VIII - yes, he of Wallis Simpso Well, this was a little different to my usual reads but, I hasten to add, definitely in a good way. I do like to mix it up a bit every so often and thought that this book would fit that bill nicely; and I wasn't wrong. It's set in the UK in 1953 but not the 1953 we all know. Prior to that year, an alliance was formed between GB and Germany which has led to all sorts of knock on effects. We catch up with the action in the time leading up to the Coronation of Edward VIII - yes, he of Wallis Simpson, abdicated fame. Well, he's back and since the "removal" of George VI from the throne, is eager to take his place in history. Whilst all that is going on, we meet our main character Rose who has a rather interesting job - rewriting novels. Yes, you read that right, she takes the book and rewrites it according to specifications - basically, in a nutshell, women characters have to be subservient. You can imagine...! Anyway, as with any regime, there are those who (rightly) oppose it. Small factions who make their presence know despite the penalty for doing so. Obviously with the Leader visiting from Germany for the Coronation, those in power would really rather these rebels would wind their necks in, and pipe down. Specifically troublesome is an area known as Widowland and, for reasons you will discover in the book, Rose is sent there to try and infiltrate and suppress... But will she manage to do this or will she be swayed by their cause...? This was an interesting book for me. Probably mostly as it is a genre I am not overly familiar with but, on the back of this book, one I am eager to continue my relationship with. It's especially interesting to see Edward back in the frame for King what with the shenanigans with Harry at the moment - definitely some parallels there - American divorcee and all! But I digress. We have a caste system in this book, categorising women for all sorts of things, which places them in certain positions job and society wise. I had to write down what was what but, tbh, it doesn't really matter the ins and outs, only that they exist. The storyline wasn't quite a cohesive as I would have liked it to be. It meandered around quite a bit and there were some things that I would have liked more on and some that, in my opinion, were a bit superfluous to the main storyline. That said, I did find it easy to follow once I had got the concept of what was happening straight in my head. Characterisation was excellent which is a good thing as it is quite a character driven story. Rose did take some warming to but as the scales started to come off her eyes and she started to see things more clearly, I really started rooting for her. I was trying to check the author out but I have learned that CJ Carey is a pen name. Probably for someone I have never heard of as they are apparently an Historical Novelist and that's not really my bag. That said, I wouldn't be adverse to reading more by this author, whoever they are! My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emma Rowson

    I love reading dystopian fiction, however my appetite for it has been completely wiped out this past year or so. Feeling as if you’re living the opening chapters makes the genre far less of an escape. That being said, when I read the blurb for Widowland, the old spark was ignited and I found myself diving in enthusiastically. Widowland is based in an alternate timeline, one where Winston Churchill never became Prime Minister and Britain joined in Alliance with Germany. After the fighting, women ou I love reading dystopian fiction, however my appetite for it has been completely wiped out this past year or so. Feeling as if you’re living the opening chapters makes the genre far less of an escape. That being said, when I read the blurb for Widowland, the old spark was ignited and I found myself diving in enthusiastically. Widowland is based in an alternate timeline, one where Winston Churchill never became Prime Minister and Britain joined in Alliance with Germany. After the fighting, women outnumber men two to one and their existence is arranged into a caste system, organised by their perceived worth to the oppressive patriarchy. Rose Ransom is an elite woman, a Geli, afforded privilege the other castes can only dream of. Working at the Ministry of Culture, she is exposed to the classics, tasked with rewriting them in line with party ideals. She is then handed a special task – to help locate the resistance who are daubing forbidden lines of literature on public buildings. As part of her investigation she is sent to the Widowland, slums where childless women over the age of 50 reside. I love alternate histories, especially ones which stem from the Second World War, it really was such a defining moment in time that had the power to alter everything we know today. Expected with the genre, Widowland is an unsettling read, and I often felt little shivers of recognition in the behaviours of the government in place. The caste system is horrendous. Women (although some are revered but this is only limited to their looks and ability to have children) are seen only in terms of their use. Their caste dictating their rations, where they live and how they live. The picture painted is vivid in its bleakness and I felt that the backstory and narrative around this was some of the best storytelling I’ve seen in terms of world building and clarity. Equally excellent is the character of Rose, her journey throughout was really well told and I really connected to her as a character. My only complaint would be that perhaps her time in the Widowland wasn’t as impactful as I thought it would be. With so much at stake with the task she was given, I didn’t quite feel her urgency until much later on. That said, latterly, as events coincide and the story picks up speed I literally could not put my Kindle down. My eyes were glued to the screen for the last two hours and I absolutely loved being swept along! The feminist message throughout was loud and clear, and that the threat to topple everything came from the women cast aside by this new society was cheer-invoking. Although I’m still clinging on to my thirties, I’ve already noticed a shift in how I’m treated, I’ve heard from other women that there is an aura of invisibility that settles on you as get older. And why is this? This book proves the worth of women of any age, quite literally, with echoes of the words of female writers long since passed reverberating throughout. Widowland is the book that has re-hooked me on the dystopian genre. Strong, feminist and I absolutely loved the ending.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Gilmore

    3.5 stars, rounded up because I raced through it. What if there was no second world war and instead the UK submitted to Germany? Several speculative fiction books have asked this question and the answer is usually as dark and bleak as one would expect. So it is in Widowland. It's 1953 and the UK is planning a coronation for Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. A junior partner in the Anglo-Saxon Alliance, life in Britain is dull and grey. Food is scarce and regulated, clothing restricted, the country 3.5 stars, rounded up because I raced through it. What if there was no second world war and instead the UK submitted to Germany? Several speculative fiction books have asked this question and the answer is usually as dark and bleak as one would expect. So it is in Widowland. It's 1953 and the UK is planning a coronation for Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. A junior partner in the Anglo-Saxon Alliance, life in Britain is dull and grey. Food is scarce and regulated, clothing restricted, the country's wood, metals, materials and meat sent to Germany. along with most of the male population. The women are segregated into castes, everything from their hairstyles to their calorie consumption dictated by their status. Rose is a Geli, the highest caste. She has a good civil service job, a room of her own, a high ranking (married) german boyfriend and relative freedom. But even well connected Gelis live in a constant state of fear and so when she is summoned to the Commissioner's office, she worries about what infraction she's been reported for. Anything from wearing lipstick to adultery can have severe repercussions and she's guilty of both. Instead she finds herself tasked with finding out who is responsible for acts of vandalism, ordered to infiltrate Widowland where the lowest of all, elderly, childless women, live to find the answers. There was a lot I enjoyed about this book, but there were many things that jarred as well. If all men are shipped off to the continent then just who are the women supposed to marry when marriage and motherhood is their ultimate destiny and one they can be punished for not doing? Why is Rose busy amending classic works of literature when reading is discouraged and plenty of propaganda novels are published anyway, why not allow these books to slip into obscurity? Why select untrained Rose for this mission? In addition there aresome clunky turns of phrase, especially around Rose 'remembering' which she does a lot in order to supply the huge amounts of backstory needed to make sense of this alternate history. Rose herself is a pretty passive heroine, injected with a dose of instalust, and the pacing is a bit off with a huge amount crammed into the last third. I'd also have liked to have seen the Friedas, the inhabitants of Widowland, centred more, maybe with a narrative of their own; these middle aged and elderly ex suffragettes, teachers, explorers and independent women are easily the most interesting characters within the book. However, although Widlowland did seem flawed in many ways, it races along, I did enjoy it and would absolutely read a sequel.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Widowland by CJ Carey Thanks to #Netgalley & Quercus Books for an ARC in return for a review. "To control the past, they edited history. To control the future they edited literature". Welcome to England in 1953, Germany has won the Battle of Britain and Great Britain is now a Protectorate of Nazi Germany. The coronation of King Edward VIII and Queen Wallis is about to take place. VIPs from Germany including Adolf Hitler are about to descend on London to participate in the celebrations. Albert Rosenb Widowland by CJ Carey Thanks to #Netgalley & Quercus Books for an ARC in return for a review. "To control the past, they edited history. To control the future they edited literature". Welcome to England in 1953, Germany has won the Battle of Britain and Great Britain is now a Protectorate of Nazi Germany. The coronation of King Edward VIII and Queen Wallis is about to take place. VIPs from Germany including Adolf Hitler are about to descend on London to participate in the celebrations. Albert Rosenberg is Britain's Protector and he has very strong views about the role of women in society. The main character is Rose Ransom who works at the Ministry for Culture rewriting female literature according to Protector Rosenberg's rules i.e. eliminating any mention of independence or intelligence in the writers. Women are divided into categories and Rose is a Geili (named after Hitler's dead niece). Geilis are the epitome of Nazi womanhood and have access to the higher ranks of soldiers. The coronation is planned as a spectacle to show the rest of the world how well GB is doing under Nazi rule. However, there is a potential problem because feminist slogans are being daubed on buildings and the authorities are anxious to stop the perpetrators. The residents of Widowland are the most likely suspects. The women who live there are regarded as having no value to society and appear to have nothing to loose. Rose is sent to investigate this tribe of unruly women and so the story unfolds. Widowland is told in a concise but detailed manner. Rose appears at first to be a vacuous good time girl who is also the perfect citizen. She has a German lover and is very good at her job. It would be easy to dislike Rose but as the author reveals details of Rose's past I found myself becoming more sympathetic towards her. C. J. Carey's ability to imbue her novel with menace is excellent. Certain scenes had me holding my breath and the tension increases as the novel progresses. The clarity of the writing also keeps the reader engrossed. The author also uses some well worn tropes like "her heart shaped face" and "his brilliantly polished boots" which I took to be ironical given the strict rules this society imposes on it's citizens. Widowland is many things: dystopian, feminist and a chilling portrayal of "what if" fiction. Be warned once you start reading Widowland be prepared to keep reading as it is a very difficult book to put down! 4.5 stars

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jacki (Julia Flyte)

    This is an alternative history book, like SS-GB or Fatherland. It's set in England in 1953 and the premise is that England negotiated an alliance with Hitler's Germany in 1940 and has become a satellite state. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson have been reinstated as King and Queen and German has become an official language in schools. Women have been stratified into castes based on how closely their appearance adheres to Ayran ideals and also their ability to bear children. Your caste determines This is an alternative history book, like SS-GB or Fatherland. It's set in England in 1953 and the premise is that England negotiated an alliance with Hitler's Germany in 1940 and has become a satellite state. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson have been reinstated as King and Queen and German has become an official language in schools. Women have been stratified into castes based on how closely their appearance adheres to Ayran ideals and also their ability to bear children. Your caste determines your role in society, where you get to live, even how many calories you're allowed to eat everyday. The oldest and childless women are sent to live on the outskirts of cities in areas called Widowland. Rose is a Geli (the highest caste of woman, named after Hitler's niece) which accords her privileges. She works at the Ministry of Culture, rewriting classic books and fairytales to bring them in line with German standards. So for example at the end of Little Women, Jo gives up on being a writer and marries an upstanding German instead. Rose is asked to visit Widowland in the hope of finding who is behind a series of anti-regime graffiti that has been springing up in cities around England. This is a frustrating book. The setting is intriguing and the author (Jane Thynne, writing under a pseudonym) puts a lot of time into the world building, but the plot is all over the place. For example, we spend a lot of time with Rose and her family which is necessary for one specific plot element but is otherwise not particularly relevant and which ultimately goes nowhere. Other parts require significant coincidences or explanation. The characters lack depth. And the ending comes together very quickly - too quickly. And yet. I read all 400+ pages in a day, which I don't do if a book isn't holding my attention. And Thynne has put a lot of thought into how the society functioned which is interesting. She has written several books set in 1930s Germany as did her husband, the late Philip Kerr. So I enjoyed that aspect of the book. It's flawed, but it has some redeeming qualities.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vansa

    “Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also”- Heinrich Heine This is a very compelling, but terrifying book to read. Set in an alternate timeline where England formed an alliance with Nazi Germany, 'Widowland' explores what the Western world would have looked like. Unlike Len Deighton's SS-GB, that has this alternate history as its basic setting, this book engages with what daily life would have been like, through its protagonist, Rose, an employee whose job is to change classic “Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also”- Heinrich Heine This is a very compelling, but terrifying book to read. Set in an alternate timeline where England formed an alliance with Nazi Germany, 'Widowland' explores what the Western world would have looked like. Unlike Len Deighton's SS-GB, that has this alternate history as its basic setting, this book engages with what daily life would have been like, through its protagonist, Rose, an employee whose job is to change classics of Western literature in keeping with the diktats of the fascist dictators. It's frighteningly real, because this is the way life would pan out in a fascist state- there will be people insulated from the horrors of the state by class and caste privilege ( playing out around me as I write this review). Nobody can ultimately escape it though, and no level of privilege will ultimately protect you from it, no matter how much you may choose to ignore it. The book is peppered throughout with quotes from women writers, that are wielded as slogans by an unlikely band of rebels. While there are other works that deal with similar themes, 'V for Vendetta' as well, for instance, what set this work apart from.all those others ,for me, was the author's firm grip over keeping her narrative as close to reality as possible. The importance of altering history, the constant repetition of facile slogans, the capture of institutions, eroding an independent media- it's easier to achieve than one would think, and it's happening across the world. Something I've always felt, was that World War 2 was ultimately fought because of Hitler's expansionist ambitions. I really liked that the author brought that out- that if the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact had been adhered to, and Russia never attacked at all, it's entirely possible that without Pearl Harbour ,Russia and the USA wouldn't have been drawn into the war at all and the world might have been very different. We're lucky things worked out the way they did. In times of rising fascism across the world at present, this book is an important, timely read- it's important to keep democracy alive, and that's a responsibility that everyone shoulders- as a voter, as a consumer of news , as a citizen.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Annette Jordan

    Widowland by C J Carey is an interesting work of alternative history with a strong feminist message, and I was gripped by it from beginning to end. The book is set in 1953, in a version of Britain which became a member of a Grand Alliance with Germany and the Axis forces during World War 2. While the country is about to celebrate the coronation of Edward VIII and his wife and Queen - to - be Wallis, the real power in the country is held by its Protector, Alfred Rosenberg, a man with very definit Widowland by C J Carey is an interesting work of alternative history with a strong feminist message, and I was gripped by it from beginning to end. The book is set in 1953, in a version of Britain which became a member of a Grand Alliance with Germany and the Axis forces during World War 2. While the country is about to celebrate the coronation of Edward VIII and his wife and Queen - to - be Wallis, the real power in the country is held by its Protector, Alfred Rosenberg, a man with very definite ideas about women and their place in society. Women are classified on criteria like appearance, bloodline and fertility and are divided into groups ranging from the socially elite Gelis to Lenis, professional women to the bottom of the pile Friedas, widows, spinsters and those too old to produce children. The narrator of our story , Rose, is a Geli who works in the Ministry of Culture rewriting great works of literature to conform with the ideals of the Alliance. When stirrings of rebellion are seen ahead of Hitler's visit for the Coronation, including graffiti consisting of literary quotations, Rose is sent undercover to investigate a group of Friedas living in poverty in the poorest and most run down part of the city colloquially known as Widowland. What she learns will cause her to question herself, her role in society and how far she is willing to go to pursue what she believes to be right. This was a completely gripping book, I could barely put it down as I was so invested in the world the author had built, just different enough from the history we know to make the familiar feel new , and with a dystopian edge that I really enjoyed. I loved how the author wrote about books and literature and how important and necessary they are for society. As a character Rose goes on quite the journey over the course of the book, and as she changed so did my appreciation and enjoyment of her, I also appreciated the thought the author had put into capturing the detail of what day to day life would likely have been like, it gave a grounding of reality to the story. I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own,

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