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Aliya Whiteley’s ‘The Beauty’

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Somewhere away from the cities and towns, a group of men and boys gather around the fire each night to listen to their stories in the Valley of the Rocks. For when the women are all gone the rest of your life is all there is for everyone. The men are waiting to pass into the night.

The story shall be told to preserve the past. History has gone back to its aural roots and the power of words is strong. Meet Nate, the storyteller, and the new secrets he brings back from the woods. William rules the group with youth and strength, but how long can that last? And what about Uncle Ted, who spends so much time out in the woods?

Hear the tales, watch a myth be formed. For what can man hope to achieve in a world without women? When the past is only grief how long should you hold on to it? What secrets can the forest offer to change it all?

This book was recommended to me by a friend so when I started reading I really had no idea what to expect. I certainly would not have expected what I found. The story is set in a world where all the women have died due to an unknown infectious disease that doesn’t effect the men. But it begins many years after the women have already died out and the men have adapted to life without them. The story allows enough time for gender to have become almost obsolete as a social construct. Near forgotten by the younger generation and an idolized haze by the older generation. But from the graves of their women, mushrooms begin to grow and then from those mushrooms female figures, women-like creatures, emerge. But they are not the women that the men remember, they take the form of women but are something entirely different. The story that then unfolds is one that looks at what defines men and women and how those definitions change the way we look at ourselves as it is not just a look at gender but at how we construct our society.

‘The Beauty’, as the females are called, offer physical comfort to the men but they also have the ability to transmit images and emotions by touch so that the men become almost addicted to their companionship. But they are also much stronger than the men and therefore begin to take over the more taxing tasks and roles that we traditionally fulfilled by men, even before the disease struck. However, there are differing opinions with regards to whether the Beauty are there to save or do damn them. When violence is committed against the Beauty the community have to then decide how to treat the ‘women’ and those who commit ‘crimes’ against them. The society that they have formed has to change and adapt to the new circumstances.

Procreation becomes possible once again through a union between the men and the beauty but it is now the men that carry and sustain the young. It is this that triggers the transition from male to female both physically and arguably socially. This story is not particularly fast paced or action lead but it does intrigue right to the end as you want to see how their society develops and it isn’t an overly long story. It’s just long enough to get you thinking but short enough to make you want more.

If you are fond of dystopian fiction that causes reflection and social commentary than I would recommend picking this story up. You won’t be disappointed.

If you’ve already picked it up, let us know what you think!

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Literature Review

 

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