Sarah Hall, photo credit: Richard Thwaites  



The state of the nation has changed. With much of the country now underwater, assets and weapons seized by the government - itself run by the sinister Authority - and war raging in South America and China, life in Britain is unrecognisable. Most appallingly, in this world of scant resources and hard industrial labour, the Authority insist all women should be fitted with contraceptive devices.

In The Carhullan Army, Sister, as she is known, delivers her story from the confines of a prison cell. She tells of her attempts to escape this repressive world and her journey to join the commune of women at Carhullan, a group living as 'unofficials' in a fortified farm beyond the most remote Cumbrian fells. The journey is a challenge, but arrival is only the beginning of her struggle.

A testament to the triumph of the individual in dire circumstances, and a novel of extraordinary imagination, range and emotional complexity, The Carhullan Army has the visionary intensity and quality of great dystopian fiction.

The Carhullan Army at:

The Carhullan Army (Daughters of the North)
Sarah Hall

'Sarah Hall is garnering a reputation as a strong regional voice with her flavoursome historical fiction ... Hall is unflinching, yet sensitive, in her anatomisation of the psychology of survival, but she draws back from describing bigger events, in this case the final climactic battle, skipping straight to its aftermath instead. Excelsior is always a good motto.' - Rachel Hore, Independent on Sunday

'With rivers bursting their banks, the Stock Market taking a tumble, an ever-present terrorist threat at home and British forces engaged in two intractable conflicts overseas, the publication of Sarah Hall's third novel could not be more timely ... Dystopian fiction is in vogue. In recent years, writers as diverse as Doris Lessing, Jim Crace, Michael Cunningham and Will Self have offered their bleak visions of the future. What distinguishes Hall's contribution is its local detail. Like her first novel, Haweswater (2002), The Carhullan Army is set in Cumbria, and Hall's sharp and vivid evocation of landscape ("The light was fading fast, and the rust-coloured bracken in the banks looked like a tide of scrap metal") has the value of rooting her dark fantasy in a recognisable rural world ... This is a grim, uncompromising novel, unrelieved by either hope or humour. Just as she gives her central character no name, so Hall allows the reader no chance to identify with her emotionally. Her account is detached and dispassionate, written in prose as crystalline and craggy as the landscape, its unexpected usages - "jeoparding", "prideful" - lending it weight. Although its narrative voice and political vision may be too bleak for many readers, the seriousness of Hall's intent and the scale of her achievement are to be highly commended.' - Michael Arditti, Daily Telegraph

'A community under threat was also the theme of Hallís first novel Haweswater and she is an impressive writer on all the alliances, compromises and tensions of group living ... This is a violent novel, strange and unsettling. It terrifies not because of its vision of a new world but because of its understanding of the cruelty and mess we make of our personal relationships.' - Kathy Watson Novel of the Week, The Tablet

'Whether imagining the future or the past, Hallís evocation of place and atmosphere is a joy ... an accomplished, provocative novel. The farm and its community are a triumph of the imagination: you could almost believe the author had lived among them as part of her research. This, combined with the luminosity of the prose casting its light across an emotional and intellectual landscape as bracing as the fells themselves places The Carhullan Army at the vanguard of the new wave of futuristic dystopian literature.' - Martyn Bedford, Literary Review

'Her work renders the darkest emotional landscapes with a sharp eye and a warm heart. Hall's acidic poetry follows through in The Carhullan Army'. - Mia Hansson, Time Out

'Hall, 33, was Booker-shortlisted for ... The Electric Michelangelo, but The Carhullan Army is as gripping - and shocking - a piece of writing as any you will read this year. In all her three novels, Hall has written the landscape almost as if it were another character. Here, the harshness of circumstances are mirrored by the wildness of the moorland in which the women live'. - Tina Jackson, Metro

'Considering the recent spate of unseasonable weather and car bombs, Sarah Hall's third novel can't help but have a certain resonance. The Carhullan Army recounts one woman's fight against The Man, both figurative and literal. It's an interesting twist on the futuristic doom and gloom prophecy, shot with plenty of pace and grit ... poignant reading for these dangerous and rainy times' - Malcolm Jack, The List

'After the recent disastrous floods, this novel is well timed. Though the novel's futurist vision is fascinating and disturbing, there's a whiff of 1970s radical feminism about Sister and her comrades. Hall seems to suggest that if they succeeded in their revolution, they would be repressive in turn' - Clare Colvin, Daily Mail

'Sarah Hall's third novel is an unexpected addition to that low-key sub-genre of science fiction .. like Doris Lessing's Canopus in Argos, The Carhullan Army is much concerned with law and violence: the point at which the hand that rocks the cradle must pick up a gun. As with her first novel, Haweswater, The Carhullan Army is set deep in Sarah Hall's native territory ... [her] prose is chunky with local language, colour and landscape. Everything is earthy, nothing idealised. Hall makes her survivalist women properly foulmouthed and uncouth. Jackie Nixon herself is a splendid creation, ablaze with the schizoid, lacerating intelligence of a guerrilla messiah, or warrior queen. What she [Hall] has given us is good ... tough, thorny, bloodyminded' - Colin Greenland, The Guardian

'The publication of The Carhullan Army is unnervingly well-timed: following a month of apocalyptic flooding, here is a dreadfully plausible and absorbing vision of a Britain whose unravelling begins with just that - a deluge of water ... With echoes of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and P. D. James's The Children of Men, Hall's dystopian landscape is far too close for comfort, the confession form giving her prose an economy and urgency not present in the expansive tapestry of her 2004 Booker-shortlisted The Electric Michelangelo. She retains her poetic exactness, though: rock showing through the grassland is "the bones of an older district, stripped by the wind". The novel is, among other things, a meditation on the inequality and difference of gender. The aim behind Carhullan is not just survival: it is to remove all male influence ... Rich and exhilarating as it is disturbing.' - Tom Gatti, The Times

'A superb novel from the author of The Electric Michelangelo. ... This is a hugely compelling novel of a nightmarish but conceivable future, brilliantly written.' - Ruth Atkins, Bookseller's Choice, The Bookseller

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