Book Review: Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time

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'Marge Piercy's bestselling novel is both a gripping drama of survival and a Utopian epic. The story of Connie Ramos - 27, Mexican-American, labelled inadequate, unfairly incarcerated in a mental hospital - becomes the turning point for a book about war, a vision of an idyllic future and a moving narrative of essential human dignity. Emotionally compelling, politically searing, this is a landmark novel by a writer of dazzling abilities.'

Long time, no speak! (Certainly not the first time I've said that on here). I'll update you on my life goings on in a following post, but for now I'm going to talk a bit about the most recent book I've finished and how much I bloody loved it. This is the book that's gotten me back into reading, and, hopefully, back into blogging.

Woman on the Edge of Time is the story of Connie, a thirty-seven year old Hispanic woman living in the 1970s who has recently been committed to a mental institution by her brother after she violently attacked her niece's abusive pimp. This book isn't a light read, as you can already tell. When trapped within the institution, Connie begins to slip in and out of time with the help of Luciente, a woman she dreams about and, on one confusing occasion, speaks to on the street before the events of the novel.

Luciente takes Connie to her world, Mattapoisett. This world is the future, or a possible future depending on how the events of the world unfold, and is the image of utopian bliss (once Connie wraps her head around their different ways of doing things, like gestating babies outside of the body and men breastfeeding). Everybody in Luciente's society is treated as an equal, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, ability. They live sustainable lives, preserving their land and using technology in a way that helps them provide for each other and doesn't leave destruction in its wake.

As Connie slips between her present and Luciente's future, she is still, physically, in the institution, undergoing invasive and potentially dangerous brain surgery as doctors attempt to 'cure' her. It's a difficult read at times as the entire text is saturated in both racial and sexual injustice, as well as injustice towards her coming from a poor socioeconomic background and having a history of drug abuse.

I loved the way the story was told, using a realistic 'voice' for Connie rather than your regular narration. Occasionally she speaks Spanish or uses phrases that come from her culture, creating the true character of Connie, rather than a flat one. She has hobbies, tragic stories of past loves, family relationships, thoughts about sex and violence, all of the things a real person experiences in their life, which is what makes her story even more painful to read. The characters of both Mattapoisett and the mental institution in which Connie is living are all fantastically written, and I really enjoyed seeing parallels between their personalities and motivations, despite from being two very different times and very different places. Society has made a complete 180 degree turn, but sometimes the brightest burning personalities remain the same.

I'm incredibly eager to pick up more of Piercy's books after finishing Woman on the Edge of Time as I found her writing style so incredibly immersive and emotive, I think many things I read in the next few weeks are going to feel empty compared to this. I would recommend this to anyone interested in reading fiction about gender and race, as well as anyone interested in getting into science fiction but don't want to jump in the deep end. I cannot sing this book's praises enough.

M x

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