Red Clocks

Red Clocks


In 'Red Clocks' a law has been passed making abortion illegal in America and IVF has been banned because embryo's cannot agree to the process. In light of these changes four women must make some difficult decisions about the path their lives must now take.

Our Review

I chose to read Red Clocks by Leni Zumas because the premise reminded me of my favourite book The Handmaid’s Tale. In some ways this comparison was accurate but in others it didn’t quite match up.

In Red Clocks a law has been passed making abortions illegal in America. Not only that but IVF has also been outlawed and in a few months, adoption will only be made available to two parents families.

The new laws effect each of the four main characters in the book in a different way. ‘The Biographer’, Ro, is a single woman desperately using sperm donors in an attempt to gain a child of her own. ‘The Daughter’, Matilda, is pregnant with an unwanted child and nowhere to turn. ‘The Wife’, Susan, is desperate for a way out of her failing marriage. ‘The Mender’, Gin, the victim of a modern-day witch hunt and a herbalist who helps women with problems they can’t solve with traditional means.

Red Clocks is told in split narrative form and includes a fifth character – the subject of the biographer’s book. The excerpts from the life of this fifth character served as an interruption in the plot for me and I frequently found myself skipping the chapters in the book relevant to her.

After reading a lot of run of the mill books in the past few weeks I was expecting to find a five-star book with Red Clocks but although elements of it were definitely brilliant there were also things that let it down.

One of my favourite things about the Red Clocks was the idea of The Personhood Amendment and how plausible it seems in the current US political climate. This is what makes the idea so brilliant and scary, but it feels like it could happen and in a gradual way that many people wouldn’t initially notice just as it did in the book.

“Two years ago the United States Congress ratified the Personhood Amendment, which gives the constitutional right to life, liberty and property to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Abortion is now illegal in all fifty states. Abortion providers can be charged with second-degree murder, abortion seekers with conspiracy to commit murder.

In vitro fertilization , too, is federally banned because the amendment outlaws the transfer of embryos from laboratory to uterus. (The embryos can’t give their consent to be moved.)

She was just quietly teaching history when it happened. Woke up one morning to a president-elect she hadn’t voted for. This man thought women who miscarried should pay for funerals for the foetal tissue and thought a lab technician who accidentally dropped an embryo during in vitro transfer was guilty of manslaughter.”

The whole passage quoted above was horrifying to read not least the section on women who miscarry.

I felt like four main characters in Red Clocks were essentially stereotypes. I loved the chapters told from the point of view of Matilda and Ro and found that I wanted to know what happened to them. Gin I was expecting to be interested in as I loved the idea of an outsider and ‘witch’ being put on trial. In reality, it wasn’t long before I lost interest in her story, or rather it became a distraction from the stories of Matilda and Ro. Susan’s story on the other hand never really intrigued me that much. She began as a stereotypical mother struggling with her perception of her life as dull and that is how she remained.

I found the prologue highly uninteresting, but the first chapter was more what I was expecting to read. It begins with Ro waiting to undergo some tests related to her fertility and although it was unnecessarily graphic in some areas it was also interesting.

Ro carries a notebook around with her and likes to compile lists. I felt that these lists help the reader to get to know her better and to learn her fears.

“She starts a new one. Accusations from the world.

  1. You’re too old.
  2. If you can’t have a child the natural way, you shouldn’t have one at all.
  3. Every child needs two parents.
  4. Children raised by single mothers are more liable to rape/murder/drug-take/score low on standardised tests
  5. You’re too old
  6. You should’ve thought of this earlier.
  7. You’re selfish.
  8. You’re doing something unnatural.
  9. How is that child going to feel when she finds out her father is an anonymous masturbator?
  10. Your body is a grizzled husk.
  11. You’re too old, sad spinster!
  12. Are you only doing this because you’re lonely?

Gin is a bit of an outsider. She prefers the company of her goats and her cats to most people. Gin’s ideal is to live off the land and be self-sufficient, but she hasn’t quite made it yet. She knows what people think of her that she is a witch and she embraces that image up to a point as she doesn’t like most people.

Matilda has sex in the back of a car with someone she hopes will one day become her boyfriend. Shortly afterwards she finds out she is pregnant, and she is at a lost as to what to do. She knows she doesn’t want to keep it and she doesn’t want the baby to grow up to find they were adopted and to wonder why like she did. She only has one choice, but that choice is illegal.

My favourite character in the book was Ro, mostly because in terms of the new amendment Ro was the character that quite often reflected my own views.

“Last year one of the seniors threw herself down the gym stairs, but even after she broke a rib she was still pregnant, and Ro/Miss said in class she hoped they understood who was to blame for this rib: the monsters in Congress who passed the Personhood Amendment and the walking lobotomists on the Supreme Court who reversed Roe V Wade.

To start off with some people would travel to Canada to have terminations or IVF but now the ‘Pink Wall’ exists.

“American intelligences must have some nice dirt on the Canadian Prime Minister. Otherwise, why agree to the Pink Wall? The Border Control can detain any woman or girl they ‘reasonably’ suspect of crossing into Canada for the purpose of ending a pregnancy. Seekers are returned (by police escort) to their state of resistance, where the district attorney can prosecute them for attempting a termination. Healthcare providers in Canada are also barred from offering in Vitro Fertilization to US citizens.”

In the new system the only options available for young girls are the illegal ‘term houses’. They have awful reputations and are dangerous to the girls who are desperate enough to chose to go to them.

The premise of Red Clocks was very good, but I feel some of the characters ultimately let it down.




Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 3.9/5

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