Widowland: Book summary and reviews of Widowland by C. J. Carey


A Novel (Widowland, 1)

by C. J. Carey

Widowland by C. J. Carey X
Widowland by C. J. Carey
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Book Summary

For readers of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle comes a thrilling feminist dystopian novel set in an alternative history that terrifyingly imagines what a British alliance with Germany would look like if the Nazis had won WWII.

To control the past, they edited history. To control the future, they edited literature.

LONDON, 1953. Thirteen years have passed since England surrendered to the Nazis and formed a Grand Alliance with Germany. It was forced to adopt many of its oppressive ideologies, one of which was the strict classification of women into hierarchical groups based on the perceived value they brought to society.

Rose Ransom, a member of the privileged Geli class, remembers life from before the war but knows better than to let it show. She works for the Ministry of Culture, rewriting the classics of English literature to ensure there are no subversive thoughts that will give women any ideas.

Outbreaks of insurgency have been seen across the country with graffiti made up of seditious lines from forbidden works by women painted on public buildings. Suspicion has fallen on Widowland, the run-down slums where childless women over fifty have been banished. Rose is given the dangerous task of infiltrating Widowland to find the source of the rebellion before the Leader arrives in England for the Coronation ceremony of King Edward VIII and Queen Wallis. Will Rose follow her instructions and uncover the criminals? Or will she fight for what she knows in her heart is right?

With wit, suspense, and sheer originality, C. J. Carey has crafted an eerie story of "what if" that explores how some systems of female control cherished by the Nazis would have developed in a German-occupied England.

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Media Reviews

"Storytelling at its best! I rarely come across a book I can't put down but I devoured this one. It was The Handmaid's Tale but even more closely tied to the reality of our world, showing what happens to women under a totalitarian regime." ― Rhys Bowen, New York Times bestselling author of two historical mystery series as well as several internationally bestselling historical novels

"Brilliantly conceived and executed, Widowland is a mind-bender of a novel about the power of literature to change minds...I loved it!" ― Mark Sullivan, bestselling author of The Last Green Valley and Beneath a Scarlet Sky

"Fatherland meets The Handmaid's Tale in C.J. Carey's compelling what-might-have-been new novel. In an alternate Britain living under the rule of a victorious Hitler, where English children speak German in schools and women are separated into pro-Aryan caste lines, heroine Rose Ransom earns her living editing the English classics to remove subversive or pro-female elements. Finding herself drawn into a secret underground aiming to strike on the coronation day of Edward VIII and Queen Wallis, Rose may just find herself in the process―what she believes in, and what she is willing to die for. Widowland is a compulsive, terrifying read." ― Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code

"In a world where Wollstonecraft is banned, rebel women risk everything to reclaim their power. C. J. Carey's Widowland, a brilliantly imagined alt-history dystopia where women reading is the greatest threat to totalitarian power, is a must-read cautionary tale for our times." ― Samantha Silva, author of Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft

In Widowland, C. J. Carey imagines an alternate history 13 years after England surrendered to the Nazis and formed an alliance with Germany. This chilling take vividly portrays a world where reality is replaced by fiction and literature is more threatening than the deadliest weapon. A compelling, page-turner that feels all too timely.

"C. J. Carey takes the great 'what if' question of the twentieth century and gives it a wholly inventive feminist twist in this fascinating novel. With impressive historical research and thriller-like suspense, Carey charts heroine Rose's journey from privileged subject to brave resistor in a world that has weaponized education, social status and even memory. Tense, thought-provoking, and terrifying, Widowland is about a woman's search for truth in a world bent on destroying all traces of it." ― Natalie Jenner, international bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society and the forthcoming Bloomsbury Girls

"In Widowland, C. J. Carey has written an electrifying, Orwellian dystopia with a thrilling feminist twist. Carey renders a post-WWII alternative history that demonstrates the resilience of women and their ability to find light even in the darkest places. In Carey's expert hands, one can truly believe that literature can change the world." ― Lara Prescott, New York Times bestselling author of The Secrets We Kept

"Widowland is the perfect book for readers who want The Handmaid's Tale with a dash of Wollstonecraft. Carey has created an alternate history in which words are the ultimate weapon. Her literary references are a welcome splash of color in this gray world. Widowland is a convincing spin on a 'what if' story." ― Eva Jurczyk, author of The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

"This utterly engrossing exploration of the subversive power of literature―part thriller, part dystopian fiction, part feminist cautionary tale―is a rollicking homage to women who refuse to accept being less. It could not be more timely." ― Meg Waite Clayton, internationally bestselling author of The Postmistress of Paris

This information about Widowland was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Lois K. (Marana, AZ)

Dystopian Allegory
"Widowland" is a powerful tale that presents an alternate history of the aftermath of the Nazi invasion of Europe and conquest of Europe and the UK. The main character, Rose, a young British woman initially accepts, like other countrymen, the "Alliance" (as the German control of UK is called). However, in her position in the Culture Ministry she becomes increasingly aware of horrors around her. In this world, women are classified by beauty and usefulness to the "Alliance." Living necessities (housing, jobs, and food) are dispensed by class with the lowest class of women receiving barely enough food to survive. Rose's view of her world and her purpose changes when she has connection with the lowest class of women. "Widowland" deals many of the same issues as "Handmaiden's Tale"--women's rights, racism, and a Fascist government. An important distinction between these books is that the oppressors in "Widowland" are Nazis, and their disregard for human rights is historically well known. That we are still today struggling with these same issues, the author presents us with frightening images of a world order that we may eventually be a part of.

Jean L. (Rogers, AR)

The Beginning is Always Today
The War in Europe ended in 1940 when the British surrendered to Germany. In defeat, the people in Great Britain suffered the loss of the rights that made the England english. Germany created a caste system that rated all people in the country according to the value to society and to men. At the top we're the Geli Girls whose job was to prepare to be the wives and mothers of the the officers. At the other end of the spectrum were the Freides who were passed the age of fifty. They were used up. They were the cemetery people. They lived under the most austere conditions in a place called Widowland.

The book, WIDOWLAND, opens in 1953. There is excitement in the air. After 13 years, the powers that be, have granted everyone a day off from work so that everyone can watch the coronation of Edward VIII and Wallis as king and queen. Televisions are being set up all over the kingdom so everyone will be able to watch the festivities. Only later will Edward realize that he has no power. The leader from Germany plans to attend.

The main character in the story is Rose Ransom. She is a Geli Girl. She has been involved romantically with a senior government official. This is not allowed but it is not a problem for her. She is beginning to question the relationship. One other thing she does that is illegal is she writes. The Alliance does not want people to write. They hope that with a little more time nobody will be able to write. Rose's job is to rewrite the classics so all examples of women in leadership roles will be eliminated.

Rose's growing independence in dramatic fashion commits the ultimate crime against the Alliance.

This book will stay in my mind for a long time. Though this was a fantasy, the thought of a world without an England is scary. Rose's story is about an awakening of independence. She gains courage through her contacts with Freides in widowland.

Christine B. (Lilydale, MN)

Stars in the Past
My goodness what a clever scenario! I loved this book from the very beginning. What a startling world view - no discussion or remembrance of the past. Our history is what makes us wise and able to confront our present and future. All this was taken and erased by the Protectorate. Even in their arranged "perfect" world citizens of every class were under scrutiny and threat of punishment. The Author's descriptions of the different classes of women was superb and certainly gave rise to thought. Widowland was certainly not a place to thrive but the human spirit even there was prevalent. This book was about a world of "selections" and I would without a doubt select this book for reading and discussion!! Please bring on the sequel quickly!!

Ted R. (Saint Paul, MN)

The power of literature
C. J. Carey has given us an extremely readable and entertaining book in Widowland. It is a unique look on the power of literature, fiction as well as nonfiction, and the impact it can have on public opinion and shaping the future. As historical fiction it paints a vivid and realistic vision of what censorship can bring. Most readers will enjoy the plot as well as the characters. The subject matter would provide opportunities for book clubs to discuss content as well as the underlying societal implications.

Vicki - www.beachwalkbooktalks.com

Scary Alternative History
What if England just gave up when Hitler's troops took over Czechoslovakia, Poland, France and other countries? What if Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax formed an alliance with Germany and England became a Protectorate of Germany? That is the world reality in Widowland.

The year is 1953, the British Royal Family is "missing". England is awaiting the crowning of King Edward VIII and Queen Wallis. Women have been relegated to second class citizens and are being slotted into castes. History and literature are being changed to reflect Nazi ideology. Living in this dystopian mix is Rose Ransom, a member of the privileged class, who has a job in the Cultural Ministry rewriting classic works of literature.

Rose is tasked to go into Widowland, a desolate place where widows who are deemed worthless to society live. She is sent to gather information on a potential rebellion. As she delves into the lives of the widows she meets, Rose uncovers truths about her work colleagues and her German lover.

This book is a very engaging read and a wonderful speculation on what life in England might have been if history had turned out differently. More importantly it sheds light on the topic of rewriting history to support current ideologies as well as the concept of caste systems in society. The world depicted in Widowland would be an oppressive reality.

Widowland is a must read for any student of history, current events, or dystopian fiction.

Nancy C. (The Villages, FL)

This is a must read!!! It is so terrifying in today's world.
I've been reading it during the leaked Supreme Court draft of Roe V Wade decision and I feel as though my reality is the book reality.
Instead of banning books like in my state of Florida, they are rephrasing or editing books. Girls are not supposed to learn to read until they're eight years old because they may develop ideas. Just look at women in Afghanistan and the Taliban.
This book is both horrifying and very easy to read.
Anyone or cares about our world today, but especially a woman's place in the world should read this book.

...11 more reader reviews

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Author Information

C. J. Carey Author Biography

C.J. Carey is the pen name of Jane Thynne, author of a number of books including the Clara Vine series. She was born in Venezuela, went to school in London and then to Oxford University where she read English. After that she worked as a BBC journalist, before moving to Fleet Street and working at The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent, as well as numerous magazines. She lives in London. Widowland is the first novel she has written as C.J. Carey.

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