Audiobook Review: Goslings by J.D. Beresford

12 07 2013

Goslings by J. D. Beresford

Read by Matthew Brenher

Dreamscape Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 12 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: Goslings is a fascinating, if somewhat scattershot, exploration of gender roles and collectivism in post plague England. Beresford explores many social issues in his look at the necessary rise of a British matriarchy. The plot is a bit unfocused, moving characters around as a means to explore his themes, more than creating a self contained story, yet, it still manages to be quite interesting.

Grade: B

I have to admit, despite the hours and hours upon hours I spend researching Post Apocalyptic fiction I had never heard of Goslings before it showed up on Dreamscape Audios catalogue. Shocked that a book featuring a worldwide pandemic that wiped out the majority of the world’s male population would somehow escape my notice, I had to grab it post haste. Goslings is perfect novel to rekick off my Welcome to the Apocalypse feature, because one of my goals with the feature is to examine classic Post Apocalyptic novels, since it seems Audible and other producers seems to be putting them out in as fast as they can secure the rights. I was fascinated by the concepts behind Goslings because, it examines the roles of the sexes, yet being written in 1935 is also a child of it’s time. One of my issues with older fiction is I have trouble determining what is satire and what is actually  just a product of the era it was written in. For example, I always was uncomfortable with the relationship between the main character and his African American neighbors in Alas, Babylon. Yet, for the 1950’s, it was actually quite progressive. What made it harder for Goslings, is I believe much of the book is satirical. Goslings was probably quite progressive in 1935, yet the language and concepts just drip with misogyny. Gosling’s younger daughters are painted as frivolous, because they like shopping and fashion, yet when one proves to be logical she is described as having masculine qualities. Yet, conversely, one character talks about how business men prey on women by manipulating fashion so they must buy the newest, hippest thing each season, then goes on to examine his own foppish nature. There are obvious satirical elements, it was just hart to pull them out of \the pervasive mentality of the 19030’s.

In Gosling’s a plague has ravished the world, killing off the majority of men, and now the women must find a way to survive on their own. When Mr. Gosling, one of the few men immune to the disease, finds greener pastures, he leaves his troublesome wife and daughters to fend for themselves. Not prepared for the changed world, they set out in search for a safe place and discover a collective community where women, along with one strange man, work together to find a way in the new world. Goslings is a fascinating, if somewhat scattershot, exploration of gender roles and collectivism in post plague England. Beresford explores many social issues in his look at the necessary rise of a British matriarchy. The plot is a bit unfocused, moving characters around as a means to explore his themes, more than creating a self contained story, yet, it still manages to be quite interesting. There is a lot of humor in the tale, particularly at the start with surly Mr. Gosling, and his relationship with his women. Mr. Gosling is a bit of a prat, shocked at the idea that his women could ever survive without the help of a man. Yet, when the end comes, he leaves his troublesome ladies because they won’t risk their lives to head out and find him tobacco. While the set up is seems to be about gender roles, I think Beresford’s true goal is the exploring the ability of humankind to better themselves through social collectivism and fixing the mistakes of the past. While he explores interesting gender issues, the mentality of his time bleeds in. The most successful communities of women, all surround a particularly skilled male, who can direct them. In the Gosling daughter’s community, the main male is a resourceful gentleman who isn’t interested in sex. He encourages the females by explaining that they need to act like men now. It often feels like Beresford is saying that women can do just fine without men, as long as the put behind girly things like flirting, clothes and religion. He seems to believe that women may be better stewards of humanity because their malleable nature is more open to change and collectivism. Luckily, the overall story is quite fun, and while the ending seemed a bit too easy, I enjoyed the experience. Gosling’s is a fun little book, with an interesting post apocalyptic setup and some intriguing and often goofy characters along the way.

I was actually a bit surprised that Matthew Brenher, a male, was cast to read this novel where most of the males die. Yet, Brenher may have been the perfect choice for Goslings. He reads the book as if it was a true satire, capturing the often absurd moments with a tongue in cheek smirk that seemed to say, “Ah… these people. Can you believe them?” He actually was quite skilled at female voices, creating a slew of believable female characters of all ages. Despite the dated language, he gave the book a modern accessible feel the is often lacking in audio versions of older books. He had a crisp, sure reading style that made the book a lot of fun to listen to. While the book itself was a bit all over the place, Brenher’s reading never was, and his performance made any problems with the overall book seem trivial.

Thanks to Dreamscape Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

Note: This review is part of my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse series. Click on the banner below for more posts.

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One response

12 07 2013
russell1200

He seems to have been one of the earlier sci fi writers, who was thought of as a sci fi writer, being the next generation after H.G. Wells. As such, he was able to “get there first” on a lot of subjects: including post-collapse matriarchal replacement. My guess is that as a sci fi writer, most of what he is writing is not intended as pure satire.

It was released in the U.S. as “A World of Women. The copyright on a lot of his work has run out, so it is available at various locations and formats- obviously that work is not read to you.

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