Red Clocks Group Read in January

Talk75 Books Challenge for 2022

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Red Clocks Group Read in January

Edited: Dec 27, 2021, 2:56am

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Little, Brown, 2018
The Borough Press (UK), 2018

Translated into Dutch, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, & Ukrainian.

Winner, Oregon Book Award for Fiction, 2019
Shortlisted, Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, 2019
Shortlisted, Neukom Award for Speculative Fiction, 2019
National Bestseller
New York Times Editors’ Choice
Washington Post Notable Book of 2018
Best Books of 2018, The Atlantic
Best Books of 2018, Huffington Post
Best Books of 2018, Entropy
Best Books of 2018, New York Public Library
Best Feminist Fiction of 2018, Autostraddle
Indie Next selection
Most Important Books of the 21st Century So Far, Vulture
Best Book of 2018 Finalist, Goodreads
Best Novels of 2018 So Far, TIME

Dec 27, 2021, 2:53am


Leni Zumas was a finalist for the 2021 John Dos Passos Prize for Literature. Her bestselling novel RED CLOCKS won the 2019 Oregon Book Award for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and the Neukom Award for Speculative Fiction. The novel was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and was named a Best Book of 2018 by The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Entropy, and the New York Public Library. Vulture called it one of the 100 Most Important Books of the 21st Century So Far.

Zumas is also the author of FAREWELL NAVIGATOR: STORIES (2008) and the novel THE LISTENERS (2012). Her stories, essays, and interviews have appeared in Granta, The Times Literary Supplement, Guernica, BOMB, The Cut, Portland Monthly, Tin House, and elsewhere. She has received grants and fellowships from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, the Regional Arts & Culture Council, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Zumas lives in Oregon and teaches in the creative writing program at Portland State University.

Her first name rhymes with “rainy.”

Dec 27, 2021, 2:54am

I plan on opening the cover sometime this weekend!

Dec 27, 2021, 3:32am

I will be reading this one in tandem with My Name is Red so it will be a coincidentally colourful start to 2022 for me!

Dec 27, 2021, 8:07am

I'm here. :)

Dec 27, 2021, 9:00am

I’ve added this thread to the group wiki, will also make sure the group read gets announced on the Message Board.

Dec 27, 2021, 9:51am

I'm going to join y'all if that's okay.

Dec 27, 2021, 10:18am

>7 Crazymamie: Great news!

Dec 27, 2021, 12:29pm

Awesome!! Visitors, some expected and some new. And Jim has added us to the group wiki--thank you.

Dec 28, 2021, 3:23pm

I am going to be in on as many of these as I can this year, including this one. Like Paul, I will be reading My Name is Red in January too.

Dec 29, 2021, 2:43pm

I'll take my copy of Red Clocks to Alaska with me so I can start it early in the new year.

I'll also be using a new book mark from my favorite new book mark creator: Felix Doolittle.

Dec 29, 2021, 6:39pm

>10 alcottacre: Yes, it is a Red start to the year. I am also reading My Name is Red with you and Paul and all the other people he has enticed in with the Asian Book Challenge. : )

>11 EBT1002: Just opened Red Clocks! Seriously. Page 5. I got interrupted by a phone call and then I popped on LT and now here I am. Love those bookmarks! Which one do you have?

Dec 29, 2021, 6:53pm

>11 EBT1002:, >12 Berly: You must have a friend with excellent taste in bookmarks.:)

Dec 29, 2021, 7:47pm

>13 BLBera: >11 EBT1002: Who can say "no" to bookmarks! Yes, my twins are T-R-O-U-B-L-E!!!

Dec 30, 2021, 6:35pm

Starting Red Clocks with my Doolittle bookmark.

Jan 1, 9:22am

I have to say after the first 50 pages, this is a little sad; the whole premise doesn't seem so fantastic anymore.

Jan 1, 9:24am

>16 BLBera: Agreed.

Jan 1, 9:27am

About to start it too. >16 BLBera: & >17 Crazymamie: have given me some pause for thought!

Jan 1, 1:57pm

Well Texas is making this book a little too real, but I am reading on....

Jan 1, 1:59pm

>19 Berly: I have not started it yet, so I better get on with it. Expecially since Texas is "making this book a little too real" and I live there!

Jan 1, 2:59pm

About to start

Jan 2, 3:28pm

I'm out - this one is just not for me.

Jan 2, 7:22pm

I am afraid I am with Mamie on this one. I read 50+ pages and that is my limit. Sorry, people

Jan 2, 7:32pm

This book is getting a "nope" reaction from quite a few readers. I haven't started it yet but I'm curious to see which "camp" I land in.

Jan 2, 7:35pm

Interesting. I wonder why people are stopping?

Jan 2, 7:38pm

Well, as Paul pointed out on his thread, some of the language is a little off-putting. : P

Jan 2, 7:40pm


Jan 2, 7:49pm

>27 BLBera: Hmm too, Beth. I am slightly undecided. I brought the book to work with me and if I dump it I haven't got anything to read at my breaks and lunchtime (2 hours) and that is a shame.

I half decided to give up this morning but I will soldier on for now.

Jan 2, 9:01pm

I find it interesting that all the characters are first introduced by their life category (The Biographer, The Mender, The Wife, The Daughter) not their given or proper names. It echoes the theme of the book, that women are just a category, to be ruled over by men, to be judged, to be denied their own choices. When it comes to reproductive rights they aren't individual people.

And between the US and Canada there is a "Pink Wall" which requires Canada to return any female they "reasonably" suspect of trying to end a pregnancy to the US.

"Won't Stop One,
Won't Start One.
Canada Upholds U.S. Law!"

Jan 2, 9:07pm

Also I found this interesting article by the Atlantic...

Jan 2, 9:19pm

Great article. I like the part that talks about how it's a thoughtful consideration of womanhood. We see women in a variety of places, with different desires, many of which are dismissed by those around them. I've read this before, but once again, I'm getting sucked into the lives of the various characters.

Jan 2, 10:50pm

I'm 1 hour into the audiobook. I understand why people are giving up, but I am soldiering on for the time.

Jan 3, 12:06am

I carried on and tried, I did but :

"A vesicle on Clementine's south lip, the inner fold, white-red in the browny pink: how much does it hurt?
Oh God, a lot. Sometimes at work, I'm like 'Eeesh!' and they think I'm - Anyway, do I have syphilis?"
"No. Plain old cunt wart."
"My vadge isn't having a good year."
page 44.

I grew up on Emily & Charlotte B and then went onto Penelope Lively, Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark , Anita Brookner and Penelope Fitzgerald. I won't complain about any of them again.

I feel that there is a good story in there but - prude I am not - it is a bit too "modern" for me.

I'm out too, enough for me.

Jan 3, 12:34am

Sorry so many of you did not enjoy this book and I hope it doesn't scare you off of future reads!! ; )

I admit that there is a crassness that I am not enjoying and which doesn't add to the value of the book IMHO; it also took me awhile to get used to the short, choppy sentences, but I am in it for the idealogical discussion. Currently on page 230 and I am pulling for the characters to find solutions in their lives and to see if the political landscape changes at all by the end.

Jan 3, 2:00am

>34 Berly: Since you are carrying on, Kim, you can let the others like me who gave up on the book know how it ends!

I will definitely be back for future reads!

Jan 8, 6:04pm

I'm sorry so many folks are bailing. I'm taking a break to read something else but only because of library due dates.

So, I'm only on page 86 but it seemed to me that the crassness was easing a bit and the character development getting richer.

Also, I wonder about the purpose of the crassness of such passages as that quoted by Paul in >33 PaulCranswick:. I had the same reaction to that passage: "really? I need this level of grossness and gutter talk?" I'm no prude, either, and I was trying to figure out why she has the characters talking so. Crass objectification of women's bodies? Deep division between self and body such that speaking about one's body in such terms fails to connect with emotional experience?

I'm not sure but I look forward to discussion about it. It's okay if discussion proceeds faster than my reading. I'm in it for the duration.

Jan 10, 1:28pm

Thanks to the conversation on various threads giving up on this, I decided to start reading it. So far I’m 14% in and not having any problems. We’ll see!

Jan 10, 10:24pm

>34 Berly: Kimmers, I will try whatever book is put forward as I love shared reads.

I didn't get on with the book but I may return to it at some stage in the future and I definitely recognise the importance of the subject matter.

Jan 16, 4:03am

I just finished this, and I loved it.

Jan 16, 1:26pm

So, some thoughts.

I agree that some of the descriptions are surprising and gross and I was initially put off. But they are zingers for a reason; they make us see how close this is to real life. And why is the toilet scene so much harder for me to take than all the blood and gore of murder mysteries I've read? Interesting. I think the level of detail is a pointed reminder to NOT use generalities like the chapter categories the women are boxed in. And, if you read on, the hair is not laziness on The Wife's part, but a planned attempt to annoy her good-for-nothing husband. She's working, taking care of the kids and cooking and cleaning. Why can't he clean the toilet? A way to contribute to the family until he finds another job.

Now the categories: The Mender, The Wife, The Biographer, The Daughter. Obviously, nobody, no woman (or man), can be described by one category of her (or his) life. This is a deliberate ploy by the author and represents the excruciating restrictions of both culture and law. Only later do we learn the names of these characters. We learn more about them, and they come to life as individuals, but they always WERE individuals. We must take the time to get to know them and ensure the freedom to let them be all they can be. Interestingly, not only do the men limit the women to these boxes, the women also have trouble seeing the entirety of their female counterparts. For example, Ro/The Biographer longs to have a child, and is jealous of Susan/The Wife for having two, failing to see how miserable Susan is as a mother.

The main male characters are not nice guys in this book, I think largely to provide a foil for the women and their difficulties. I don't think Zumas is anti-guy. There is also the kind Canadian official, the ex boyfriend of Gin/The Mender who brings food and supplies, and the lawyer friend.

I love that there are two stories about abortion, one from Gin/The Mender who in the past chose to go full-term and give birth and place her child up for adoption and, in contrast, Mattie/The Daughter who is desperately seeking a way to have an abortion now. Women need to have choices and decide for themselves how to navigate life. Also at conflict, the desire of Ro/The Biographer to have a child and Mattie/The Daughter seeking to end her pregnancy, how our own wants and needs gets in the way of our helping others. And if the government is prohibiting abortion, meaning there will be many more children born into the world, why limit the number of loving parent who wish to adopt? Whether they be single, married, hetero or same sex couples?

Red Clocks is scarier for me than The Handmaid's Tale (which I loved!), because it isn't a dystopian novel, set in the future with a different societal setup. It is so frighteningly close to now that I can almost touch it. The legal manipulations going on in Texas and other states concerning abortion and women's rights are just small steps beyond this book. I am incensed and petrified and we have to pay attention. NOW.

So basically, I thought this was a great book. : )

Jan 16, 1:36pm

>35 alcottacre: Glad you are up for another joint read. I hope you enjoy the next one a little bit more. ; )

>36 EBT1002: Hope you appreciate the book when you get a chance to return to it. I think it was an important and memorable read. I mean Beth read it twice!! LOL

>38 PaulCranswick: I know you love shared reads--you initiate a ton of them! And I do hope that one day you return to this book and enjoy it. But if not, no worries. There are too many books to read and we have the Pearl Rule for a reason. The next INDIEspensable read for February is Moonglow by Michael Chabon and I hope that one draws more readers in. I love the discussion part of shared reads.

>39 ursula: Yay!! I am glad you joined in. : )

Jan 16, 1:46pm

Oh! And I forgot about Eivor, the polar explorer. I had trouble with the excerpts about her before the chapter headings, but only in the beginning. Then I enjoyed the snippets of an explorer's life and also her story of trying to overcome female limitations. It pissed me off that her research findings were unpublishable under her name, because she was a female.

Jan 16, 4:31pm

>40 Berly: Great comments