I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman

For a very long time, the days went by, each just like the day before, then I began to think, and everything changed.

Deep underground, thirty-nine women live imprisoned in a cage. Watched over by guards, the women have no memory of how they got there, no notion of time, and only vague recollection of their lives before. As the burn of electric light merges day into night, a young girl - the fortieth prisoner - will soon show herself to be the key to the others' escape and survival in the strange world that awaits them above ground. 

A haunting, heartbreaking post-apocalyptic tale of female friendship and intimacy.
 

Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold by Margaret Atwood

What could Felix possibly be suspected of smuggling, a harmless old thespian like him? It’s the words that should concern you, he thinks at them. That’s the real danger. Words don’t show up on scanners.

Felix, former Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre, is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge on those who ruined his career. After twelve years, it finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?

Exuberant, tightly-written and packed with humour, Hag-Seed offers many surprises on its journey to a startling climax.
 

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Listen to me, will you — these are facts.

Philip Roth’s 2004 historical fiction reimagines America during the Second World War: what if, instead of electing the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, America chose Charles Lindbergh, aviation hero and anti-Semite? In this blistering novel, Philip Roth traces the divisions wrought upon a Jewish family sharing his name and the names of his immediate family members. 

The Plot Against America is a masterpiece and a great starting point for anyone interested in reading Roth.
 

The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

I didn't run away, that's what I want you to understand. 

Not until there was no one left to listen. 

Now we have equality. Now we’ve outgrown our biology. With FullLife’s baby pouch, women are liberated and men can share the joy of childbearing. Holly’s whole family knows the benefits, but Eva doesn’t believe society has changed for the better and Piotr has uncovered a secret behind FullLife’s glossy facade. What separates them may just bring them together, as they search for the truth about FullLife and each face a truth of their own.

A boldly original and unforgettable novel from a rising star.
 

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.'

In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI. Meanwhile, Ron Lord is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere.  Across the Atlantic, a cryogenics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead… but waiting to return to life. But the scene is set in 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein is a love story about life itself.
 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.

No book aside from 1984 so dominates the mind as Brave New World when discussing dystopian fiction. The year is 2540 (632 After Ford), and London’s citizens have never been happier. The populace is dosed with the drug soma, an antidepressant and hallucinogenic. Bernard, dissatisfied and neurotic in a society in which everyone should be happy, brings John, a ‘savage’ from New Mexico, to London.

Sceptical of what he saw as an ongoing Americanisation of the U.K. and an increasing tendency towards seeking solace in consumerism, Huxley’s short novel remains extremely relevant and entertaining. 
 

The Power by Naomi Alderman

She twists something quite deep inside her chest, as if she’d always known how to do it.

One day in the future – it could even be tomorrow – women will discover they have a life-changing power: the ability to injure, even kill, with the flick of a wrist. What happens next?

Winner of the 2017 Baileys womens prize for fiction, The Power is recommended reading for anyone seeking a fresh, unexpected, and highly readable novel.
 

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

One day you hear a droplet falling in the silence – and you can hear it again now ...

A significant influence on both George Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s classic novel sketches the stable society of One State. Written in 1921 but suppressed in Russia until 1988, We follows the mathematician D-503, who, as part of One State, has sacrificed individual freedom for the collective good. D-503 is a seamless part of society’s machinery until, through the course of writing his journals, he discovers something shocking: he has a soul, an ‘incurable’ soul.

Composed with a peculiar wryness and grace, We is a vital classic of the genre.
 

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

They were inconveniently reasonable, these women.

When three American men discover a community of women, living in perfect isolation in the Amazon, they decide there simply must be men somewhere. How could these women survive without man's knowledge, experience and strength, not to mention reproductive power? In fact, what they have found is a civilisation free from disease, poverty and the weight of tradition. All alone, the women have created a society of calm and prosperity, a feminist utopia that dares to threaten the very concept of male superiority.

Herland is an funny, unsettling and thought-provoking read. 
 

Vermilion Sands by J G Ballard

'Darling, Vermilion Sands is Vermilion Sands. Don't expect to find the suburban norms. People here were individualists.' 

Welcome to Vermilion Sands, the fully automated desert-resort ready to fulfil your most exotic whims. Home to the idle rich it now languishes in uneasy decay, populated only by forgotten movie queens, solitary impresarios and the remittance men of the artistic and literary world. Discover prima donna plants programmed to sing operatic arias, dial-a-poem computers and psychosensitive houses capable of murder.

These quintessentially Ballardian short stories of dystopian modernity are stories to marvel at and savour. 
 

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

His wedding gift, clasped round my throat. A choker of rubies, two inches wide, like an extraordinarily precious slit throat.

Angela Carter was a storytelling sorceress, the literary godmother of Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Audrey Niffenegger, J. K. Rowling, Kelly Link, and other contemporary masters of supernatural fiction. From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires and werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories. 

Subversively dark and sensual, writing this beautiful simply has to be read. 

 

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