‘Femme’ – A Book Review

Femme by Delia Strange

A science fantasy with a touch of romance.
A utopian world with a touch of slavery.

Kaley Blackburn is sent to Femme in her final year of Future Tech studies. The world is a socialist utopia of low crime, great health and advancements in technology that leave other worlds envious.

It is a fantastic place to visit if you’re a woman. Men, on the other hand, are the slaves that tend to all feminine desires. Kaley knew about the world’s culture of slavery but never had to face it until she is assigned a slave, Mecca, for the duration of her stay.

Mecca is handsome, intelligent and obedient, but every answer he gives to Kaley’s questions only feed her growing concerns. Does Femme hide an ugly truth beneath its beautiful surface and can she trust her feelings for a man whose sole duty is to make her feel special?

I will admit that ‘Femme’ would not normally be the sort of book that I’d pick up when wandering around a bookshop or perusing Amazon. However, once I got into reading I found myself really enjoying what Delia Strange has created. Despite being set in a not-too-distant future, there is little about the world she creates that comes across as too unbelievable. I wasn’t sure how I felt about aspects such as ‘tourist worlds’ and worlds entirely dedicated to one aspect of life (such as study), but they manage to work within the context of the book.

The characters have to be my favorite part of the whole book however. Despite playing the main role, Kaley Blackburn is in no way extraordinary. Something that I found incredibly refreshing. Delia Strange has created a character is is utterly realistic, a true representation of a twenty something year old student and despite being a romance novel Delia does not expect the reader to believe in true love at first sight or any other literary cliche. The relationships in the book grow slowly, and in each and every one you are left to question motivations, feelings and overall perceptions. Just as in real life, first impressions are often called into serious question.

‘Femme’ is a beautifully written book. The chapters, characters and plot are all carefully crafted, subtly leading you deeper and deeper into the world of ‘Femme’, something that is wonderful to see in an era when the quality of the word is sometimes lost beneath other aspects. ‘Femme’ is a reminder that often little is as it seems and looking deeper can “taint” that perfect picture we are presented with, leaving us unsure of everything else we have been told and more than a little confused. Perfect doesn’t necessarily meant happy and ‘Femme’ shows this with a startling clarity.

A Very Weird Night – part one

The other night was very strange indeed. It didn’t start off strange, it start off fairly normally, if a little dull. (Twenty minute bus journeys with only the company of your iPod, and a severe lack of interesting conversations to eavesdrop on, leads to very dull bus journeys.)

The weirdness grew over the night. I felt rather out of place, walking through Bath at half seven at night, on my way to a poetry reading at the ‘Royal Literary and Scientific Institute.’ The dress I had chosen to wear seem to have shrunk overnight, the skirt seemed significantly shorter than when I had last worn it a few days previously and my heels wanted to explore every crack and nook possible.

I arrived half an hour early, with no broken ankles fortunately, though I did have the wonderful moment of standing in the middle of a road as a guy showed me directions from his map. No cars came, and I did not end up as one with the road surface. All was well in the world.

Anyway, back to being thirty minutes early, sat in the foyer of the ‘Royal Literary and Scientific Institute’ (in Bath). As it turns out, first years turning up to the poetry events we are supposed to write reviews on, is a rare and unusual occurrence. There is nothing quite like bemusing second and third years with my desire to pass the first year of my course, especially since I’m paying nine grand a year to study it.

When the poetry reading did start, it was fifteen minutes late, in a first floor room where most of the audience had already finished at least one glass of wine and were part way through a second. It was mentioned to me by a second year, that this had something to do with the organisers believing that wine improves the poetry that you’re hearing. That worried me. It worried me quite a bit.

The poets themselves, in all honestly, were very good. Olivia McCannon was first up, with her new collection ‘Exactly My Own Length’. Isn’t that such a fantastic title. I love the connotation it holds to poetry and writing. The title is from one of the poems, and according to what I could hear, had something to do with someone she knows walking in the countryside one day and finding a coffin shaped hole dug out of rock. So this person did as any reasonable person would do. Lay down, found it was exactly his own length, (coffin-wise), and fell asleep.

This was one of the few explanations she gave about the poetry. The second half of the book were poems written as coping mechanisms during his mother’s illness and death. Her mother died in 2008, and the poems were never written with the intention of falling into public consumption. Though I felt her interaction with the audience was a little dry, and she simply read us the work instead of engaging in quite the same way as Sasha Dugdale would do later on, her manner was understandable.

There were points where I felt that she was genuinely about to burst into tears, her voice was strained and thick, and she stumbled over words as she gave the brief snatched of explanation that she did give.  It was clear that her work is very emotionally based, and holds a lot of power because of that. However, Sasha Dugdale had to be my favourite of the night.

Sasha Dugdale’s collection ‘The Red House’, fed into my own interests and loves far more than Olivia McCannon’s had. Olivia’s poems were incredibly personal, while Sasha’s were based more in stories, histories and ideas.

Fantastic lines such as:

How they sing: as if each had pecked up a smouldering coal
Their throats singed and swollen with song”

This, from “Dawn Chorus” stuck with me, the imagery so utterly brilliant that I couldn’t get the idea of these beautiful small birds, their songs so full and rich that it is as if there is fire and flames burning in the notes. Their throats barely able to contain the sound as they sing away.

I am also a huge fan of tying history and tradition into poetry, such as with her one poem (apologies for any misspelling) ‘Michael Bian’. We were entertained with a quick fill in on how the shepherds on the downs were buried with a piece of sheep’s wool attached to their clothes, as evidence to God, to show why they had not been in church.

This alone had me hook, line, and sinker. Shepards! Wool as evidence to God! Research had gone into her writing, an effort that I admire hugely, alongside the variation within the poems. I love poets who can write from any angle within the spectrum and Sasha Dugdale proved to be one of these poets.

At half nine the poetry reading ended, though the next bus back to campus wasn’t until half ten. This meant one thing for myself and the other first year who would also be catching the bus. We were going to McDonalds, partly for food, and mostly for the fact that they have central heating.

This was the point where the night decided to take a nose dive off random cliff, and land me in some of the strangest situations I have ever been witness to, one after the other. But all that is a post for another day.

Time to start fibbing.

Humpty Dumpty and Alice. From Through the Look...

Humpty Dumpty and Alice. From Through the Looking-Glass. Illustration by John Tenniel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Math?

Hard,

Hated,

Couldn’t stand!

All those equations!

And the answers I couldn’t find!

Yesterday I walked past the independent bookshop in my local town. I then doubled back and walked into the same bookshop, with the intent only to look and not to buy. My intent failed and I came out with two book, though I will defend my actions with the excuse that they were both on sale.

The first was a book on how to throw the prefect tea party. I’m unsure when exactly I will be throwing this tea party, but I shall see. The second book is seeing slightly more action as I’m working my way through it with great joy. Sticky page markers have even been resurrected from the top drawer of my desk, bright pink and cheerfully reminding me where the most humorous passages are so far.

https://i0.wp.com/images.thebookpeople.co.uk/images/books/medium/AASIW.jpg

Ben Macintyre has written a cracker of a book. Did you know that Humpty Dumpty isn’t just a nursery rhyme, it’s a true story? And a fib doesn’t have to be a little white lie, it’s also a type of poetry that is based on Fibonacci’s sequence!

I’m less that fifty pages in, and already it has become my favourite book of the year, if not my favourite book of all the books I’ve read so far. It suits my humour, wonderfully witty and written to appeal to those with an interest in literature and language.

Want to read about how English contains the most phrases to mean “I’m going to the toilet”, or discover the origins of ‘Bastard’. The best phrase so far though has to be “Tingo” from the Easter Islands. According to Macintyre, this means “to borrow objects from a friend’s house, one by one, until there is nothing left.” (pg27)

My advice for today. Read this book! It has reminded me of exactly why I adore literature and language. They are both completely barmy!”