A review by Nalini Haynes
Lila Norcross is the sheriff of a small town in Midwest America, struggling to hold it together after learning that her husband had a daughter to another woman after they were married.
Clint Norcross doesn’t know why his wife seems out of sorts. Meanwhile he idly reflects on the buffedness of the pool man, the temptation his wife faces and his spreading waistline.
In the women’s prison where Clint works, prisoners are trying to dodge sexual abuse by a guard while just getting by until they get out or, for those who won’t live to see freedom, just getting by with their life in prison.
Life at the police station takes an interesting turn when they receive a phone call from a panicked woman who says someone has been killed and there’s a fire.
A woman/spirit from the dawn of time appears, and manipulates events so she’s put in the women’s prison instead of held at the station’s lockup.
Meanwhile, all around the world, women who fall asleep never wake up. Those who are woken up react violently to adults around them, committing gruesome murders, then they fall back asleep. While sleeping, cocoons grow to encase their bodies. When woken by children, however, they pick up said child, zombie-walk until the find a conscious adult and dump said child at the feet of the adult before returning to sleep.
Women and men wake to worlds of only their own biological sex.
Men react in various ways from suicide to rape to torching the cocooned bodies.
Women also react in different ways but largely they embrace their newfound community located in the future ruins of the present after all the men have died off.
Then the women are given a choice to return to the world they’ve left, and live with the aftermath of the sleeping sickness or stay in their new world. The catch: all must return or all must stay.
Sleeping Beauties is an interesting new take on The Disappearance (sorry, I can’t remember the author’s name), a book dating back to the 1970s I think, that did the rounds of my parents’ generation. In The Disappearance, both genders learned they needed one another but, in Sleeping Beauties, the women question whether they need the men. In this figuring, women are superior as in their sense of community and largely peaceful natures. The Kings appear to idolise women or, perhaps, they’re trying a little too hard to be feminists in their rendering of women.
There are a few lesbian relationships in Sleeping Beauties, one of which appeared to be implied but wasn’t overtly stated. Two male authors run the risk of ‘gratuitous lesbian sex’, which is probably why they leant towards implications rather than explicit statements, but I felt this was a disservice to character development and the plot.
I enjoyed Sleeping Beauties immensely as a science fiction thriller delving into social issues; it’s a real page turner, however, the novel is flawed. These flaws are, for me, what makes this novel excellent discussion material for book clubs and writers alike. I highly recommend Sleeping Beauties but I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5
Format: paperback but also available in hardcover and ebook
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Hachette)