The Carhullan Army

Another dystopian novel to try is Sarah Hall’s The Carhullan Army. This book is an addition to that low-key subgenre of science fiction that includes Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

In the novel the world has changed. War rages in South America and China, and Britain – now entirely dependent on the US for food and energy – is run by an omnipresent dictatorship known simply as The Authority. Assets and weapons have been seized, every movement is monitored and women are compulsorily fitted with contraceptive devices. This is Sister’s story of her attempt to escape the repressive regime. From the confines of her Lancaster prison cell she tells of her such for The Carhullan Army, a quasi-mythical commune of ‘unofficial’ women rumoured to be living in a remote part of Cumbria.

The Carhullan Army has echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale and P. D. James’s The Children of Men and some readers have found Hall’s dystopian landscape far too close for comfort, the confession form giving her prose an economy and urgency.

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