I am delighted to share my review today for When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill. This was a fabulous book to read and while it is a fantasy story, the Dragons in this book could be seen as a metaphor for the feminism that lies behind it. As a fantasy read I thoroughly enjoyed it, as a metaphorical read, I can see the points that the author is making. (I hope this makes sense!!!) However you read this or take the message, it is a brilliant story. And… I love the cover 😍
My huge thanks to Bonnier Books UK for granting my request to read this e-book via NetGalley.
Learn about the Mass Dragoning of 1955 in which 300,000 women spontaneously transform into dragons…and change the world.
Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours. But this version of 1950’s America is characterized by a significant event: The Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales and talons, left a trail of fiery destruction in their path, and took to the skies. Seemingly for good. Was it their choice? What will become of those left behind? Why did Alex’s beloved Aunt Marla transform but her mother did not? Alex doesn’t know. It’s taboo to speak of, even more so than her crush on Sonja, her schoolmate.
Forced into silence, Alex nevertheless must face the consequences of dragons: a mother more protective than ever; a father growing increasingly distant; the upsetting insistence that her aunt never even existed; and a new “sister” obsessed with dragons far beyond propriety. Through loss, rage, and self-discovery, this story follows Alex’s journey as she deals with the events leading up to and beyond the Mass Dragoning, and her connection with the phenomenon itself.
Ok, so I will admit the title of this book really called to me when I saw it. When Women Were Dragons is a reimagining with a definite fantasy thread, the dragons kind of give it away really!
Set in the 1950s this is a brilliant book that mixes historical with fantasy. Women through the years have transformed into dragons, they are never seen, mentioned or talked about ever again. In 1955 when 1,000s of women worldwide changed were still covered up. No one is allowed to mention the word dragon or anything to do with this event.
The thing is, the women have very little control over this change, some could hold it back and others just went with it.
This is a brilliant story that is about women empowering themselves and making the choice as to how they live their own lives. This is a time when women stay home, cook meals, look after the house, raise the children and have a meal ready on the table for when their husband walks in the door. It is very much a patriarchal society and while this story is set in a small area in the US, it was something that was a worldwide thing.
The focus is on Alex, a young girl who is confused by events that are happening, not just to family and neighbours who have changed, but also the changes in her own body. As a young girl, there are expectations of her and what she is to do with her future. Alex however has other ideas, she wants to go on with her education and go to university. Others think that a piece of paper to say you are clever isn’t much use when you are a mother and wife.
This story is very much about discrimination and there are times I got so angry with the attitudes of some of the characters, this is all credit to the author. I do love a story that makes me go through various emotions and this one definitely did that. Anger, euphoria, happiness, sadness and a sense of justice are just some of them. The way the author portrayed Alex and other women was just so good, the way they carried themselves with eyes down at the ground while all the time wanting to look up and to the future made it quite a powerful read.
This was a brilliant book to read, at times I admit it did get a bit far-fetched, but it still kept up the flow and feel of the story. I think at times I actually forgot some of the characters were dragons!
I adored this book and I did like the mix of fantasy with historical fiction. The concept is such a good one and it really appealed to me. This is a story about empowerment as well as a coming of age story. It does carry a powerful message and it is one I would definitely recommend.
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