An archipelago off the east coast of Britain comes under female rule. Using resources traditionally the preserve of men — inspired by ancient British stories of islands where women ran society and controlled the climate — the women quietly take charge of the islands’ education system, businesses and civic institutions.
But a revolution by stealth is not enough for Cwen. She has been here longer than the civilisation she has come back to haunt. Her name has ancient roots, reaching down into the earth and halfway around the world. The clouds are her children, and the waves; and the islands she inhabits have always belonged to women. Now she has returned to hold them to account.
Following in Cwen’s wake, young climate activists stage a rebellion against the patriarchy. A grandmother bequeaths her sons’ inheritance to a feminist foundation. And a public inquiry is launched into the archipelago’s outrageous mutiny.
This remarkable novel is a portrait of a world on the cusp of change. Exploring female power and female potential, both to shelter and to harm, it reaches deep into Britain’s matriarchal past, to ask how radical we might be, if given the chance.
Alice Albinia is the prize-winning author of two books, Empires of the Indus and Leela’s Book: A Novel. RLF Fellow at King’s College London, she has spent the past seven years living in and traveling around the edges of Britain, from Orkney to Anglesey, discovering female-centred epic stories which have inspired this novel and a work of non-fiction, The Britannias, due to be published by Allen Lane in 2022.
The book is told by the mythical Cwen and by those who are around at the time she is there and after.
I felt it showed that the strength of the women within the pages was a good reflection of what can be achieved when women band together. The book is part mythical as Cwen just disappears, but it’s also an absorbing feminist read.
It’s a good read and I enjoyed it. Time to brandish those torches!
With thanks to Serpents Tail and the Author for the advanced reading copy of this book.