Thursday, August 30, 2018

Turning on the Girls - Cheryl Benard

A wickedly amusing novel with a feminist dystopian premise 

I will make a confession: I didn't really want to read this dystopian battle of the sexes satire where women rule the world sometime in the future after a great revolution. A future where patriarchy and testosterone male hood has been banished, stiletto heels, romantic novels and rape fantasies banned and vegetarianism is mandatory. 

Behind its innocent looking, flowery cover, the pitch sounded so blatantly feminist, it screamed “feminazi". A bit though provoking indeed but too "pro-women, anti-men" for my tastes. Yet, the preview still piqued my interest, and I thought I'd just buy it and read a bit to confirm my curiosities. Secondhand books can surprise you a lot. 

I barely got through the very first page, it was as if Cheryl Benard knew what was going through my head because it was as if she had started to talk to me. No, I'm not exaggerating or crazy, the author literally breaks into the story to do a little explaining for us. About four pages later, I actually liked her unconventional prose and silly sense of wicked humor and continued to read. Much to my delight, I must add. 

You can read the preview or an excerpt online to find out about the outlandish Orwellian plot with a feminist spin so I won't repeat it all here. I just have to say that it’s been a while since I read a radically inventive novel quite like this in the recent years. Weird sci-fi movies yes but a totalitarian gender-centric novel laced with erotica and dark humour? no. 

It wasn't just the plot that had a remarkable twist, it was also the way the story was told. It’s almost as if Cheryl Benard forgot to read the rules of storytelling and skipped her writing classes in college watching Terry Gilliam's terrific 1985 gem "Brazil" for inspiration instead. And much to the reader's joy, it works most of the time. The way she pokes fun at the differences between men and women without taking sides or condemnation is a comic relief throughout. 

As long as you don’t take this very seriously and ignore the many silly clich├ęs and unnecessary gender arguments, the subtle humor placed throughout (like Justin sipping on a "Bloody Henry") is crafty and witty, alone makes a fun breezy read. If you thought women would make the world the better place, this bizarre novel turns this idea inside out, over its head, and still surprisingly succeeds.


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