Wednesday, 6 January 2021

The Blondes

Finished January 4
The Blondes by Emily Schultz


This book is part science fiction, part satire, and part social commentary. Hazel Hayes is a Ph.D. student studying the aesthetics of fashion and what our idea of beauty is. She applied for a grant to study in the U.S. and is in New York City. But, as the book opens, she verifies her suspicion that she is pregnant. The father is her Ph.D. supervisor back in Toronto, a married professor several years her senior. As Hazel decides to return to Canada, she witnesses an attack at a subway station that is deeply disturbing, and reinforces her decision to return home. But things aren't that easy.
As the world becomes away of these attacks, like the one Hazel saw, it becomes clear there is a new and unknown disease running rampant in the world, and it seems to be chiefly affecting blonde women. This includes not only natural blondes, but also dyed blondes, and there is a run on hair dye and head shaving becomes a thing. As we see Hazel struggle to get back to Canada, running into barriers related to the pandemic, we see the societal reaction as the attraction to blonde becomes a fear as well, both types of power. Hazel is a natural redhead, putting her in the uncertain category by the powers that be. As she encounters more outbreaks of the disease, personal losses, and limits to her freedom, I couldn't help but think of our current situation. 
I also found the gender aspect interesting. This pandemic does not seem to affect men, except as victims of the women's attacks, and there are many scenes of the male as enforcer, rulemaker, etc. that also reflect some of the societal realities that we see in our world.
Crossing the border and the outcome of that for her was tense, and I felt the disorganization that is now showing signs in some of the government actions around our pandemic. 
I really enjoyed this read, as it both brushed against our current situation, but was also vastly different. A good read for these times, and I think it would be a great book club choice. Lots to discuss.

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