Review – Nomansland
  • Posted:
  • June 1, 2010

It’s a bit of shame, but I didn’t care for Lesley Hauge’s Nomansland as much as I expected I would. It was ok, but not stellar. Pity.

Keller lives on an island with only women. All things feminine have been denoted as anathema, and practicing one of the seven Pitfalls can earn you punishment. The Pitfalls are Reflection, Decoration, Coquetry, Triviality, Vivacity, Compliance, and Sensuality… and yes I do find it slightly interesting that Compliance is decidedly a feminine attribute. Most interesting. The girls are also discouraged from forging friendships with one another.

One day Laing, one of Keller’s tracker companions, shows her something strange. She writes her name on a fogged up window with a lengthened painted fingernail. Keller has never seen anything like this before, and balks when Laing proclaims her name is “Brandi”, one of the forbidden words ending in “I” or “Y”. Knowing she should turn in Laing she wants to find out where she acquired such an object. Laing soon reveals her secret; a locked dwelling in a hidden place where she and her “friends” go. The dwelling is a relic of the past and many of the objects are foreign and tantalizing to Keller. She knows she must do her duty and confess to her companion, Gosse, the secret of the dwelling. But Keller is just as spellbound as everyone else is of the life that people once lived.

This book held an interesting premise, but for whatever reason seemed exceedingly flat to me. I’m not a fan of women tarting themselves up as frou-frou girlie girls and that’s exactly what happens to Laing and company. They spend a large portion of the book exercising every single Pitfall listed previously and being very unattractive human beings. I grimaced at much of this, and I know that is largely the point, but there was much more about the book that I found intriguing that was hardly hit upon. The clandestine trading with men from another land, for example, barely explored, the headmistress’s  crippling opiate addiction, only hinted at. And Hauge missed a golden opportunity for same-sex attractions. There was one incident of it and then nothing more, which feels very unbelievable considering. I wanted to hear more about the impregnation process and how these women acquired “Seed” for the breeders and yet when she did explain it felt half concocted and unsatisfying. Instead I got vain girls prancing about in high heels and bad make-up trying to be models viewed in an aging magazine. Fail.

What a waste of an opportunity. This could have easily been one of the Dystopian books of the year (and, boy, is it shaping up to be a Dystopian year, thank the gods!). I wanted so much more, and for what I got I’ll have to give it a 3 of 5 stars because, well, I wanted so much more. I’m very put out by this.


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