Red Clocks by Leni Zumas | Book Review

Red Clocks is the second novel from Leni Zumas, and takes place in a near future where The Personhood Amendment is about to pass, granting rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. This comes with some major changes - abortion will be illegal, IVF will no longer be allowed, and single parents will no longer be allowed to adopt children.

As the date of this amendment draws nearer, we follow multiple perspetives from different women, all living in a cliffy, small fishing town in Oregon. There's the biographer, a single teacher who works at the local high school and is desperately trying to become pregnant or adopt a child before the amendment. There's The Wife, who has two children and lives an unfulfilling, unhappy life. The Daughter is a high school student who finds herself pregnant, and The Mender is a herbalist who lives an isolated life in her small home in the forest. We also occasionally get a page from the biography the Biographer is writing in her spare time, about the life of a female polar explorer.

I love the way all of these strands threaded together. They all have their own stories, but many threads end up linking together over the course of the story. However, it doesn't feel forced, as the 'multiple stories which all have a connection' trope can sometimes feel, as the small town setting gives you the sense that everyone knows everyone, and so everyone's lives are inherently connected.

Small, rural towns are one of my favourite settings in book, and this one doesn't fail to deliver. The setting itself, of a rural, cliffy, coastal town added a rich layer to the book, one of the narrators casually mentioning the fact there are tsunami drills multiple times a year.

The writing style is clever and beautiful, without being overwritten. It felt like the writing had been pared back to the essentials, and like every sentence really needed to be there. There are quite a few different perspectives here, but I had no trouble telling them apart, as they were all written slightly differently and had their own distinct voices.

What's fantastic about the book is the way it completely normalised this new Amendment. Some women felt the effect more heavily than others, like The Biographer, who felt that her time to have a child was running out. But others barely gave it a thought, like The Wife, because it didn't really effect her life. The book cleverly tells the story of what it is like to be a woman in different circumstances, the different ways the world treats you, and the different challenges they face, in the setting of normal, unexciting day to day life that felt completely real.

This book was a joy to read - I couldn't read it fast enough, and I'd have read it all in one go if I'd had the chance. It was a great example of a character-driven book that didn't feel slow or stilted, so a great one for people who tend to prefer plot-driven books and are a little more wary of books with such a heavy focus on characters - it's a great place to start if you want to get more into character-driven books.

I gave this book 5 stars and would be surprised if it doesn't end up on my favourite books of 2018 list at the end of the year. I'll definitely be picking up more books from this author!

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