Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Review - "The Gate to Women's Country"

This is the first book I read by Sheri S. Tepper, who has a written a great many books since her late-in-life entry into the world of authorship. This isn't her first work, but it is probably one of her most talked about. That's actually putting it tamely. Many people really argue about this book, feel deep seated insecurities about what others think of the book or embrace it with a little too much fervor.


Gate is essentially a post apocalyptic tale, with the fall several hundred years in the past. The world is lovely and quiet, with a slow rediscovery and recovery of technology. The world, at least as far as these folks reach, is based on widely spread walled towns. Where it gets tricky for folks is that these towns are inhabited only by women, their children and a few men who have undergone a complete separation from "normal" male life.

And what is normal male life in this new world? They live in garrisons, each protecting "their" town and women. They do lots of drilling, lots of yelling and male bonding and lots of big talking regarding their prowess. They interact with women personally only during sheduled free for alls, but the women seem very obliging in the matter. Every so often the men get word of some major insult from one town, or women relay, leader to leader, that there is some threat somewhere and a few towns' men march off in great honor to fight and come back far fewer in number.

Hmm...wonder why this makes male readers a bit uncomfortable at this point?

The main character is Stavia, though there are many other characters who are just as strong and vivid, and she essentially goes through her young life and into adulthood in this story. She is all ways. She intuits and then discovers the world and what has happened within it as well as the secrets that only a very few know in Women's Country.

It is a difficult book in some respects. Mostly because it touches on some things, at various points, that all women feel deep down inside but go their entire lives never once speaking about to another soul. It touches also pretty deeply on how solutions aren't at all what they are sometimes cracked up to be.

Now, it isn't perfect. There are some resolutions that wouldn't be possible in our world and some mystical bits that always seem to wander in. All in all, it is very satisfying and one I'd want to keep to read again a few years later so I can refresh my enjoyment. It will certainly give you some pause to think.

And, for the guys; no, this isn't a man-hater book. It does put some issues on the table that are otherwise taboo though. I mean, we all know facts and numbers, but there is little alternative history to compare to. What can we point to as a truly woman dominated society to compare with our male dominated one to see, empirically, what is better? So, if you do read this, keep in mind this is a fiction writer with an interesting speculative slant on a story.

Enjoy and let me know if you read it and what you thought of it?

1 comment:

danappofc said...

I'm afraid I am one of those who 'embrace it with a little too much fervor'. I consider Gate to be one of the best books on relations between men and women that I have ever read. (I am a man, by the way.) I always recomend this book to people who express interest in male/female relations.