Kim Liggett’s The Grace Year is my personal best book of 2019. Certainly my favourite of all the new-releases I’ve read so far this year, even though there has been some FIERCE competition. It releases in the UK tomorrow, October 10th.
Unsurprisingly, I gave The Grace Year 5 stars in my full review, here.
Read me for the…
- Feminist horror
- Wild girls
- A Handmaid’s Tale/Lord of the Flies dystopia
- A strong female character
- Movie worthy high paced drama
The Grace Year is set in an unspecified world where women are subjugated, and men lauded. Women have to wear their hair one way, tied back from their faces and held with a ribbon that states their status. White for the daughters, red for the grace year girls and black for the wives. Black, for mourning? The grace year is a term to refer to a girl’s 16th year, which they must spend isolated with other grace year girls. This is because grace year girls are held in fear. Their skin emits an aphrodisiac that can draw men from their marriage beds and drive women crazy with jealousy. Their very blood is steeped in magic, and they must be isolated to burn through this magic, so that they might return purified to be married off to the husbands that chose them. Not all of the girls return. It’s time for Tierney’s grace year, and she has no intention to be a wife. All she wants to do is survive her grace year peacefully, and work in the fields, dreaming of a world where women aren’t pitted against each other in competition. Once she’s in the camp she realises that her biggest threat isn’t learning to survive, or the poachers waiting to capture her if she strays from the camp, but the grace year girls themselves.
What did I love?
Honestly, the first point I want to make about how much I loved this book is that I’ve been writing this post up approximately 2.5 months after I first read The Grace Year and now I’m desperate to re-read it. I’m going to make myself wait until the release date, so that I can jump back on the hype train with everyone reading it for the first time, but hell if I don’t want to pick it up right now – 30+ TBR list bedamned. Anyway. Actual list of things I loved:
- Tierney: Tierney doesn’t want to be married off, she just wants to keep her head down and work in the fields. She doesn’t want to be a wife, in a gilded cage. She’s a tomboy, and she’s kind to her core. Even when other girls turn against her, she’s still trying to help them. I’m not going to go on about her too much, because I talked about her in my full review, and also a LOT of my feelings about her are tied up in spoilery spoilery scenes that I don’t want to go into here. But trust me, she’s real and lovable, and she’s the strong woman that we all need in our lives.
- It’s dark: This is a book that doesn’t pull its punches. It’s dark, and it’s not sorry about it. This is a world in which girls are chosen by men without their consent. If they’re not chosen, they’re destined for a life of hard work in the fields, or worse. If they are chosen, they get a life of luxury, as long as they fit the ideal wife stereotype with the husband they didn’t choose. They’re sent away when they’re 16, over a ‘magic’ that has no real evidence. Fear and belief rarely needs evidence. And the poachers – hell. The poachers made me sick and uncomfortable. They earn money if they can catch and kill a grace year girl outside of the camp, because the girls bodies fetch a high price due to this ‘magic’.
The girls punish each other without hesitation, with brutal physical punishments even though they aren’t been overseen. They’ve been indoctrinated by society to believe that if the men aren’t there to punish them, they should carry the punishments out themselves. Even that historically, girls burn their camp down when they leave, so that the next year’s grace year girls don’t have a single advantage is so sad. It made me think about how women are taught to bring each other down, and how easy it is to jump to criticisms of other women instead of helping to raise them up. It’s this that made me love this book so much, because it has actually impacted the way I think about the women around me, and I make a concerted effort to be kinder, even in my thoughts.
- The ending: in brief, because spoilers, it’s vague and ambiguous. It’s powerful and I love it. I hope this novel doesn’t get a sequel, because it doesn’t need it. The ending of this novel is perfection, and the last line has stuck with me.
What did I not love?
If I was forced to give a criticism, I’d say that personally I could have lived without a romantic side-plot, but that’s partly because I’m aromantic and get excited when characters say things like “Being married off isn’t a privilege to me. There’s no freedom in comfort. They’re padded shackles, but shackles nonetheless.” because I love aro-representation. But, that being said, I did enjoy the role that the romance played in the story, and once I’d settled into the change to the narrative I found the role that the romance (left intentionally vague here for spoiler reasons) played in the story was powerful and played into an ending that I absolutely loved. I’m also self-aware enough to know that Tierney’s dislike of marriage is tied into the society she lives in, and her lack of choice, rather than her romantic leanings like it is for me.
Where Can I Buy?
If you can, please support local booksellers instead!