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March 22, 2022

Curfew by Jayne Cowie ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

Curfew by Jayne Cowie is billed as a reversed Handmaid's Tale. Set in England, men have to stay home between 7 pm and 7 am  - it doesn't even appear they are allowed in their own backyards between those hours. Women feel safer and more in control. Violence, particularly male violence, has decreased since Curfew was instituted. But when a young woman is found brutally murdered in the park. It could have only been another woman who committed it, right?

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of dystopian novel Curfew by Jayne Cowie
March 2022; Berkley; 978-0593336786
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); dystopian

At first, I was fascinated by the society Cowie created. And I was sucked right into the murder mystery. 

The cast is small - 3 males and 4 main female characters (there are a few other females but they are secondary characters). I didn't really like any of the characters. I felt sorry for Billy - a teenager who just accepts Curfew. He is very much a peripheral character but he is also described as being easy to overlook and I think his storyline is pretty powerful. Probably because it is so subtle. The other two guys are creeps. I didn't like any of the women, except for the police officer Pamela. Cassie is just a whiny teenager who thinks she knows everything, but she was a bit more likable than the other women. Helen was annoying in the same way but she is in her late twenties so it seemed like she should have been a bit more mature. Sarah, Cassie's mother, was my least favorite character. She is bitter and hateful.

While I found this society's solution to male violence to punish all men (starting at age 10) interesting, there are problems with it. It is pitched as a way to make females safer and freer, but it puts a strain on them too. Sarah mentioned that she had wanted to stay at home when Cassie was little but she couldn't. In order for the family to live on one salary, one parent would need to work more. Since Greg was limited in the number of hours he could work because he had to be inside the house between 7 pm and 7 am, Sarah had to shoulder the burden of working more. Cowie didn't even touch on how transgender individuals would be treated. The fact that Sarah wears drab, baggy clothes seems to be counter to the idea that it doesn't matter what women wear - if curfew really made her feel safer shouldn't she feel like she can wear sexy clothes?

The message of the book is also circumspect in my opinion. I'm sorry that the author had a violent father, but pushing the message that all men are manipulative, controlling liars, and their rights should be curtailed because of that seems to go too far. Sarah mentions that she would like for all men to be round up and removed from society. Only one character mentions her parents and they move permanently to their vacation home in France to avoid the Curfew law. I have been manipulated and lied to by females more than males. So the premise just felt oversimplified.

I liked how the murder mystery played out. It takes only a day to solve (advances in technology allow for faster dental id and DNA analysis), but there are intense moments and as we learn more about the characters I kept shifting who I thought the victim and perpetrator were.

If you can't tell from my review, there is a lot to unpack in this book. It would be a great book for a book club. There's a reader's guide at the end to further help spur discussion, but I don't think you would have trouble keeping the conversation going.

Buy Curfew at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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