Curfew by Jayne Cowie
3/22/22; 320 pages
Penguin Publishing Group
Curfew by Jayne Cowie is a recommended dystopian novel set in a world where men have a curfew.
In Great Britain the Prevention of Femicide Act of 2023, commonly
known as the Curfew Laws, were a result of known figure being murdered
by an ex-boyfriend. Women revolted, resulting in the Curfew. Now all men
starting at age 10 must be tagged and can be tracked. Men are not
allowed outside from 7 pm to 7 am. Now women dominate workplaces, public
spaces, and government and there is no gender pay gap. At the opening
when a woman is found murdered in a park early one morning, the
assumption is that the crime was committed by a woman because all men
were still under Curfew when the crime occurred. The exception is one
longtime police officer, Pamela, who thinks men should also be
considered when looking for suspects.
After the opening, we go back in time four weeks and are introduced
to a cast of characters who may all be the victim from the opening.
Sarah is a single mother who works at a tagging center. Her ex-husband
is in prison for a curfew violation. Cass, their 17, almost 18, year old
daughter, is angry at her mother for a host of reasons and openly
debates the wisdom and need of the Curfew Laws at school. Cass's
teacher, Helen, is going to cohab counseling in hopes of it being
approved that she and her boyfriend Tom can live together and start a
family. As we follow their movements leading up to the murder, we know
any of these women could be the victim.
The narrative is told through the point-of-view of each women in alternating chapters. The only first person narrative is Pamela's as she investigates the murder. With the exception of Cass, the characters are all more caricatures rather than portrayed as real individuals. Cass really comes off as a know-it-all 17/18 year old. Essentially none of the men are to be trusted and there is no likable male character in the novel. Not all violence is by men. Not all women are nonviolent. And there are many more good, well meaning people than violent malevolent people. Inequity is unhealthy from either point-of-view.
The plot started out strong as the murder investigation in this
dystopian society captured my attention, but it soon loss some of the
opening appeal. While trying to reverse gender roles, the narrative
overly simplifies them. Additionally, the plot fails to take into
account the ability to work remotely, allowing men and women to work,
earn a good living, while men still follow the curfew. Since none of the
men are presented as likable, the premise of the plot begins to ring
hollow. While the opening premise was compelling, the novel soon began
to wan and get bogged down in the simplification of the
characterizations and predictability of the plot. This started out as a
five and slowly began to lose points.