Nomansland by Lesley Hauge

Sometime in the future, after widespread devastation, a lonely, windswept island in the north is populated solely by women. Among them is a group of teenage Trackers, expert equestrians and archers, whose job is to protect their shores from the enemy- men. When these girls find a buried house from the distant past, they're fascinated by the strange objects they find- high-heeled shoes, fashion magazines, makeup. What do these mysterious artifacts mean? What must the past have been like for those people? And what will happen to their rigid, Spartan society if people discover what they've found?

When I saw this book, I was immediately intrigued by the concept. While it was not a foreign concept, it was definitely something worth reading about.

There was little action happening in the story, but the book still gripped me. Most of the stuffs in the book focused on the world building; the rigid atmosphere, the rules, the grim, unhappy inhabitants doing boring chores in a desolate island. The author focused so little upon the characters except for the main protagonist, Keller. The setting and atmosphere of the book were meant to show us a community that was so stiff and unlively that was incredibly undesirable. I guessed every post-apocalyptic  event would bring about a dystopian society. Which was all this book had given me, nothing new of the post-apocalyptic concept. Their world may not offered something new to the genre but it was still interesting.

I think the theme is worth exploring; the controlling of people and society in general through fear and obedience. Their rules were so ridiculous; you cannot have friends, you cannot have thoughts, and you cannot even have a name ending with a y and an i. And if any of these young woman break any of the rules, they would be submitted into absurd punishment only recognizable in perhaps a dystopian society. I know the author wanted to represent and explore the system and organization headed by women, and she explained how it was humorless. There may be some truth to this, but rest assured the problem here is not woman. But it was more about the need for people to have that control and perhaps that fear of chaos and disorder people could pose to one another if there was no rules and dependable system. In this story however, it was more about the their hypocrite, tyrannical leader who wanted to remain in control all the while making up the rules and regulations to have complete control over her subject.

Ms. Windsor is one of those power-crazy leader that is quite easy for me or anyone to recognize and loathe. She talked about women becoming weak because of vanity and all, while she pampered herself with found objects from the past like pretty dresses, accessories and perfumes. She punished the young women indulging in the very same privilege but she lavishes herself with these "wealth". It was pretty interesting how the concept of gender is explored here. Keller, Laing and their friends found the magazine which showed the images of the female and male models. They were captivated by the beauty of the women in the magazine and they even began to care about matters like beauty. Before this, all that mattered to these women were their chores and survival, but now they began to care about petty stuffs like who was the most beautiful. Keller, as the main character, was described to be someone that was fully accustomed to their way of living. She was considered as the most practical and logical, that was why Ms. Windsor wanted her to succeed her. She was also the one conflicted when they found the images of the female model, and thought the model to be useless. Laing however wanted to become just like the models. She was bored with the neverending chores because she felt there was no purpose to them.

I saw some review in which readers were dissatisfied about the beauty theme here, but I think what the author wanted to present here, through Ms. Windsor, Keller and Laing, is our very own perception about beauty. What is the meaning of it and what is the use of it? The rules in Foundland was basically trying to get the women and girls to not waste their time with things like beauty and friends, as they have more important things to do like their chores to get themselves by. Keller argued with Laing that the female models who gazed sultry to them through the magazine pages were useless since they never do anything other than sitting and posing around. But at the same time, Keller begun to experience stuffs like jealousy over Laing and Carrow being friends, she begun to realize the fact that she was "ugly", and she begun to re-think about the meaning of the rules they needed to keep. The rules were necessary but somehow they were keeping them from truly living. The feminine stuffs that they had found like make up, high-heeled and dresses though made them curious about the way people used to live. They thought that the women from the Time Before were happier, but Keller was at the same time disturbed by what happiness really meant like that.

I don't think the author wanted to focus on how based on instinct all women are vain. But it was more about how the environment can shape and influence people's thinking and attitude. This book certainly gives me some food for thoughts. And it is a worthwhile read. Just don't come to this book expecting some sort of epic adventure of the Amazonian or stuffs like that. Just like Cekik, this book is more about thoughts and emotional conflicts of the characters, and it's definitely a good read for me.