Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Before She Sleeps

Rate this book
In modern, beautiful Green City, the capital of South West Asia, gender selection, war and disease have brought the ratio of men to women to alarmingly low levels. The government uses terror and technology to control its people, and women must take multiple husbands to have children as quickly as possible. Yet there are women who resist, women who live in an underground collective and refuse to be part of the system. Secretly protected by the highest echelons of power, they emerge only at night, to provide to the rich and elite of Green City a type of commodity that nobody can intimacy without sex. As it turns out, not even the most influential men can shield them from discovery and the dangers of ruthless punishment. This dystopian novel from one of Pakistan’s most talented writers is a modern-day parable, The Handmaid’s Tale about women’s lives in repressive Muslim countries everywhere. It takes the patriarchal practices of female seclusion and veiling, gender selection, and control over women’s bodies, amplifies and distorts them in a truly terrifying way to imagine a world of post-religious authoritarianism.

250 pages, Hardcover

First published August 7, 2018

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Bina Shah

22 books113 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
201 (12%)
4 stars
517 (32%)
3 stars
599 (37%)
2 stars
236 (14%)
1 star
47 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 271 reviews
Profile Image for Meike.
1,518 reviews2,464 followers
December 26, 2019
English: Before She Sleeps
This is the Pakistani version of The Handmaid's Tale, minus the theocracy and plus cli-fi: After the "ultimate war" which brought about a nuclear winter (in reality, both India and Pakistan have declared to possess nuclear weapons), state borders have dissolved and societies collapsed. In Green City, the capital of the new region of South West Asia, the reigning regime has developed a plan to revive human civilization - and as there aren't enough fertile women anymore (partly due to an epidemic of HPV), those who are able to produce children are forced to take several husbands and have as many kids as possible. But in the literal underground of the city, half a dozen women have formed the Panah (Persian: Refuge), a rebel commune outside the totalitarian state. They survive by offering a peculiar service: Physical comfort and intimacy without sex. Protected by a particularly powerful client, they resist the controlling forces, until one of them, Sabine, collapses in the street and is brought to an official state hospital...

Bina Shah uses her text to critique her own society, and she does so by sampling Atwood's well-known masterpiece. In her version, the threat of a war that destroys everything, the ecological collapse and the view of women as possessions form the main sources of oppression; in the afterword, she cites The Girl in the Road and India Dishonoured: Behind a nation's war on women as sources of inspiration. While Atwood also attacks religious fanaticism employed to subjugate women, Shah depicts a world in which all religions have merged and are seen as mere eccentricities: In her dystopia, humanity and compassion have been replaced by science.

All of the characters we meet suffer, both men and women: There are the women in Green City who cannot choose their husband(s) and are forced to have children; there are the women in the Panah who live in constant fear, separated from their families, unable to have children (while it would be biologically possible, it would be hard to raise them under these circumstances); there is Julien, the doctor who risks his life treating Sabine, our protagonist, and who, like other men, has to wait until the authorities grant him a wife who he will have to share with other men; and there's even a major member of the regime who cannot marry the woman he desires. The whole text is polyphonic, told by Sabine and Rupa, fellow member of the resistance, as well as Lin, the head of the Panah, Julien, the young doctor, and his older colleague Bouthain, government repesentative Reuben Faro and by audio documents from the founder of the Panah, Lin's aunt Ilona Serfati.

This panorama of voices points to the effects of the dehumanization of women - mainly for women themselves, but also for men who are morally deformed by their cruel actions and lack females as true counterparts. Often, the texts remains too close to Atwood's original, and I would have appreciated it if there were more clear references to present-day realities in Pakistan and India (although I might have missed some as I am not exactly an expert on this region of the world). The style is not very refined and many twists are predictable, but still, I want to applaud Golkonda, the German publisher, for shining a light on contemporary literature from Pakistan - we clearly do not get to read enough from this region of the world.

If you want to get an idea of the atmosphere in Green City, check out Chilly Gonzales' track Gentle Threat which inspired Shah - the Canadian pianist who is very popular in Germany also has a fan named Tommy Orange, btw.
Profile Image for Karla Strand.
383 reviews45 followers
August 12, 2018
See the full review on my website: From Reluctance to Rebellion: A Review of Bina Shah’s BEFORE SHE SLEEPS

Before She Sleeps by Bina Shah

Green City in South West Asia is lush, modern, and hi-tech – a model of beauty and prosperity. The air is clean. Women are provided for and protected. There are good citizenship classes and robotic doormen.

Green City also has DNA security scanners. It has assigned marriages and women must take multiple husbands. As “the mothers of the new nation,” they are responsible for repopulating society and kept constantly pregnant. And if they break the rules as laid out in the “Handbook for Female Citizens,” there are harsh punishments – including “elimination.”

This is the world described in Bina Shah’s intriguing new dystopian novel, Before She Sleeps.

What first attracted me to this novel was its cover. It is alien-futuristic and I envisioned AI robots and flying cars everywhere. But it also gave me a sense of being someone down low to the ground, looking up at the new world from the depths.

I wondered if the underground was somehow going to play a part in the story – and indeed it does.

Because also in this world, there lives a group of women who refuse to capitulate to the new rules of forced marriage and childbearing. These women live underground only venturing out at night to provide a secret service to men – and it’s not the one you think.

Before She Sleeps has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, and rightfully so. The premises regarding women are very similar, wherein men hold all the power, despite the necessity of the women in sustaining life.

What sets this novel apart from others in this genre is its grounding in South Asian and Muslim cultures and its commentary on some of the patriarchal traditions of those cultures.

Shah refers to these identities in a variety of ways throughout the book and makes statements on customs that oppress many Pakistani and Muslim women today, such as veiling practices and gender selection. These markers add tremendous value and yet are subtle enough to not affect the universality of the story.

While its getting increasingly difficult to shine amongst the growing field of feminist dystopian novels, Shah offers a valuable example of what will keep this genre fresh: stories that offer readers a relevant themes of resistance to patriarchal futures based on varying cultures, religions, identities, and other perspectives.

Even though the “Gender Emergency” is mentioned repeatedly throughout the book, I felt it needed more development. There is no mention of people who are gender nonconforming, nonbinary, trans, queer, gay or otherwise. Where did they all go? Even the handbook only refers to “females.” The two or three times that the possibility of a man’s sexual relationship with another man is mentioned, it is framed by violence and shame – definitely not the portrayals we need reproduced.

I wanted to hear more about the Gender Emergency, the HPV that mutated and caused the decline of women, and the “Perpetuation scheme,” which was supposed to address the disparity. I also wondered what was happening in the rest of the world, outside of South West Asia. Some history was explained – there were references to the “Final War,” the three waves, nuclear winter – but if more developed, these details would’ve made a strong book even better.

Overall Shah’s writing is solid and she is adept at switching between voices of her characters. While this style may seem disjointed to some readers, I felt that it added to the overall feelings of volatility and imbalance of the world Shah built.

Despite some shortcomings, this is a satisfying and engaging novel that offers a nuanced take on the growing feminist dystopian genre. I look forward to reading more by Bina Shah.

This is a quick read that I would recommend to anyone who has an interest in speculative or dystopian writing, fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, and those with an interest in feminist literature, international writers, and/or women writers of color.
Profile Image for Nadine in NY Jones.
2,751 reviews217 followers
July 30, 2020
recommended for fans of Those Who Knew

This was okay. Each time I set it down, I didn't really want to pick it up again. The story just wasn't going anywhere, and all of the characters felt very flat.

One hundred years in the future, after surviving a global nuclear war, society has fractured and re-formed, and naturally the thumb screws have been put to the few remaining women.

Women are assigned to four or five, or more, husbands, fated to be perpetually pregnant, and the men are left feeling emotionally neglected. Which opens up a market for a few rogue women to spend the night with select, powerful men, not as sex prostitutes, but as sleeping companions.

That's a pretty out-there premise. I was so ready to love this. And just look at that gorgeous and intriguing cover!

It would work fabulously if it had better flesh on its bones. But, the writing is a little ... instructional? It doesn't flow or transport, it just instructs.

For example, this passage, which theoretically is describing deep, passionate feelings, carries all the emotion of my new toaster oven's user manual:
He hoped Lin had obeyed him and gone back to the Panah. She was not one for obedience; yet it was he who obeyed her plea and was making this mad dash to save Sabine from whatever danger she was in.

Oh, Lin. What could he say about Lin that he hadn’t told himself a thousand times before? He couldn’t refuse her. He never could. Since they’d begun their affair, she’d ruled him, and he’d enjoyed it. She conquered his body with a skill or a magic that had taken him prisoner from their very first night together.

There are multiple POVs, but they all have the same voice.

And the entire idea that powerful men would pay women to just sleep with them never felt real. Yes, I can understand the emotional needs that might occur in cases of forced polygamy. But why would paying a woman to sleep with you help? The woman is still not exclusively with you, she sleeps with a different man each night. She doesn't even WANT to be with you in particular, she's there because you're paying her!

There are so many details that don't add up. First, Sabine, who is twenty-one (the text tells us so),

And what the heck is "black champagne"?? Is this a drink in Pakistan? Is is supposed to be some futuristic thing? Is it Guinness? Is it (rum and) Coke?? I just didn't know what to make of it, it's like the kind of drink name a child would make up, and every time I read the words I had to stop.

Really, the plot just fell apart. It started strong, then got a little messy and lost its direction, then everyone acted irrationally and out of character, then it ended. Just, boom. I'm okay with "open endings" sometimes, but this one left multiple plot strings just dangling.

And my final complaint: this is supposed to be a feminist dystopian (and based on the Author's Note, that is indeed what she intended), about women resisting an oppressive and sexist regime, but ultimately it's the men who are still in control, the men who are the change agents, the men who lead the "rebellion" (which struck me more as "everything falls apart" rather than an actual rebellion) and the men who protect and save the women ... and it's a woman who is a "bad guy." That's not my kind of "feminist." Also, it was kind of boring.

ETA: the cover photo is of the mechanical “Supertrees” in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay.
Profile Image for Anum Shaharyar.
97 reviews435 followers
June 13, 2019
Literature in Pakistan has seen its fair share of representation in certain circles: books about terrorism and religion are easy to find — and apparently easier to write — since the country can provide such fertile ground for characters and plot lines within these genres to flourish. Much harder to tackle are topics within comedy, horror or, in the case of Bina Shah’s newest offering Before She Sleeps, dystopian fiction. Yet Shah does it with aplomb, her book being a sharp, smart reply to that queen of feminist dystopian fiction, Margaret Atwood, who wrote the 1985 classic The Handmaid’s Tale.

Both The Handmaid’s Tale as well as Before She Sleeps envision a bleak, dangerous future in which sexual reproduction and the rights of women have suffered a harsh punishment. Shah’s book offers another look at the same question posed in Atwood’s story: if, in a male-dominated city the number of women capable of giving birth decreased exponentially, what would they do? In both books, it is the women who ultimately suffer, stripped off their fundamental rights and free will, their worth boiling down to the fact that they possess a womb.

In Before She Sleeps, natural disasters and a nuclear war have laid waste to the land, from which rises Green City, the setting of the story. It is this that sets Shah’s novel apart from other titles in the past, in that the location for this city is South Asia. While a tremendous amount of dystopian literature has been produced in the West, its trickle to the South Asian regions of the globe has been slow, which makes Shah’s book that much more refreshing to read.

In Green City, a dangerous virus is affecting the female reproductive system, killing women off in alarming numbers. Desperate to maintain population numbers and protect the women of the city, the Perpetuation Bureau — an oppressive, totalitarian government agency — comes up with systems in which women must take multiple husbands and regular fertility treatments in order to ensure that they produce as many children as possible. Carelessly labelled “Wives”, these women must be shared equally between all the husbands, in what is frankly a brilliant overturning of the traditional Muslim interpretation of rules which allow a man to keep multiple wives.

What’s fascinating about this whole venture is that Shah shows women being treated as queens, and yet they are quite clearly completely lacking in any sort of power or agency. While these women are cared for with a degree of tenderness unimaginable in our current world, a select few of them recognise the system for its viciousness in its usage of women and revolt against the set-up, choosing to go down into secret tunnels — literally underground — from where they emerge to provide a completely different type of service to men.

Instead of agreeing to be one of the breeding communities, the protagonist, Sabine, becomes part of a group of women living in a secret hideout called “Panah” (those knowing Urdu will recognise the word and how it encapsulates the refuge these women seek out). These women emerge at night to provide nocturnal companionship to men in the higher echelons of society. These men seek not sex, but rather, companionship and in a complete overturning of the usual plot lines where sex is usually hidden and shameful, Shah’s story depicts platonic company as that which is disgraceful, and thus shocking, to the society our protagonists inhabit.

The story is told from several alternating points of view. We travel with Sabine as she meets a “Client” — a catch-all phrase for those men who have the money and the authority to be allowed access to these secretive women. We then hear from Lin, head of this group of secret women; then from women within this group; and then the men outside it who know of them. Each person, with their shifting point of view, introduces us to a different aspect of this society and to their own notions about what is and what isn’t good within the system. When Sabine, on one of her trips, gets sick and collapses in a public place, she sets off a chain of events that threaten to unravel all the carefully buried secrets, affecting the lives of all who live in or know of this society of closely guarded secrets.

Shah sets up a fascinating world, rich with detail and intricate in its imaginings. While it’s sad that we never get to read from the Wives’ point of view, the women we do meet — Sabine and Lin and also Rupa, another one of their companions — provide us with a complex, three-dimensional look at their lives and the choices that have led them to where they are. The men we encounter — the powerful society figure who is Lin’s lover in the world, the doctor who treats Sabine after her sudden collapse — provide a different outlook, but unfortunately their characters remain less developed than those of their female counterparts. Amazingly, what Shah does best is create a world that still caters to men — an irony in a time and place where the greater percentage of women are dead because of the fatal virus. Throughout the story, the narrative seems to seek to explain how the system struggled and came up with a solution to retain the population, but there is very little discussion about how the women are taught to acclimatise to the new environment, with only the rules laid out in the “Handbook for Female Citizens” proving to be a harsh guide.

There are some obvious flaws in the story, easily identifiable and harder to answer. The biggest is that there are no mentions at all of people who don’t fall within the heteronormative spectrum of sexuality, and no explanation given for why there are no discussions about gender non-conforming identities. It is understandable that Shah might, basing her story in South West Asia, justify this decision on the fact that multiple sexualities are not as yet part of the mainstream conversations or even considered valid and acceptable in these areas of the globe. But it’s still a weak defence for an author based in Pakistan, a country which officially recognised transgender persons as the third gender in 2009, or whose National Assembly passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act this year. There is also, unfortunately, very little discussion about the disease that lays waste to half the population, or what the rest of the world is doing while this is happening in Green City. But since ignoring the rest of the global population in setting up a limited world is a pretty common trait in many dystopian works, we can let this one go.

As a beginning point for those who haven’t yet had any exposure to speculative fiction, Before She Sleeps is a great read. Not only is it a shrewd look at a dystopia that takes into account South Asia’s complicated history with veiling and segregation, it also allows an interpretation that’s global and a commentary on our overall world structure. For those interested in feminist literature as well as works by women of colour, this should be a must read.


This review was originally published in Books and Authors on 14 October, 2018. (less)


Wow, this was fascinating. Review to come!
Profile Image for Tatiana Dengo.
876 reviews25 followers
November 8, 2018
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Before She Sleeps is another version of how a male-dominated society (in this case known as “Green City”) would approach the problem posited in the The Handmaid’s Tale: there’s a lot less women capable of giving birth than before, what do we do now? Just like in Gilead, women in Green City are stripped of all humanity, free will, and power, and are treated as nothing more than walking wombs (in this case known simply as "Wives”).

(But that is where you should end the comparison, because it is unfair and unrealistic to approach Bina Shah’s writing with the expectation of reading Margaret Atwood.)

This is an excellent book to discuss in a literature classroom setting, or as part of a book club. It's left me with a lot to ponder about, and I haven't made up my mind about most of it yet. There’s many ways to interpret this world, and I’m veering towards interpreting it ironically, with a questioning frown, and a drop of anger from the unfairness of it all.

I say ironically because despite this being a world where nine tenths of the women died to a virus that is only fatal to them, this world feels very compassionate… to the men.

At every turn, we hear about the many ways the men are suffering because all the women are gone, but the system does not even address the existence of women’s suffering because it's so pervasive that it's invisible? Because they'll get used to it? Because it's not like they have a choice anyway? And maybe they should just be grateful they’re alive and didn't die horribly from the virus??? (I'm being facetious, in case it wasn't obvious.) In Green City, the women are the elephant in the room.

Also, unlike the Handmaids, the Wives are obligated to have multiple husbands, but in this sad little world, sharing a government-assigned wife is exclusively seen as the men's sacrifice.

While the story is told from the perspectives of various characters, none of them are Wives, which I would've found interesting to see.

Instead, we follow the lives of women who have escaped into an illusion of independence from Green City. Their livelihood is still dependent on (powerful) men, whom they sell their companionship (read: not sex) to. They are still a product, an exclusive thing to be coveted; not a person. And ironically, the only place where they feel human is hiding underground.

I had to place myself in a weird headspace when reading this, because I feared there'd be near constant sexual violence, yet it wasn't as constant as I'd assumed it'd be. It was more about vulnerable masculinity, because, why would these men pay to just cuddle? Again, one-sided compassion, weird headspace.

After reading this, I had to go back and flip through many times, attempting to decipher the motivations of some characters. Still not sure what to think about a lot of this.

I do wish the book had been a tad longer (especially since I did not fully understand the decision of one of the characters at the end), and while I'd like to read more about these people, it feels like the author told the story she needed to tell.

Read Before She Sleeps not just because it’s a different take on The Handmaid’s Tale, but because it’ll give you a lot to think about.

I'm really looking forward to reading everyone else's thoughts when the book comes out!
Profile Image for Jennifer Gaarder.
109 reviews14 followers
November 23, 2018

Please read my reviews at jenchaosreviews.com

Before She Sleeps By Bina Shah

Delphinium, August 7, 2018

247 Pages, Hardcover Edition

From Goodreads:

"In modern, beautiful Green City, the capital of South West Asia, gender selection, war, and disease have brought the ratio of men to women to alarmingly low levels. The government uses terror and technology to control its people, and women must take multiple husbands to have children as quickly as possible.

There are women who resist, women who live in an underground collective and refuse to be part of the system. Secretly protected by the highest echelons of power, they emerge only at night, to provide to the rich and elite of Green City a type of commodity that nobody can buy: intimacy without sex. As it turns out, not even the most influential men can shield them from discovery and the dangers of ruthless punishment.

This dystopian novel from one of Pakistan’s most talented writers is a modern-day parable, The Handmaid’s Tale about women’s lives in repressive Muslim countries everywhere. It takes the patriarchal practices of female seclusion and veiling, gender selection, and control over women’s bodies, amplifies and distorts them in a truly terrifying way to imagine a world of post-religious authoritarianism."

Goodreads Rating: 3.58/My Rating: 4.00

I am not usually a fan of dystopian novels, though this one spoke to me. Because The Handmaid's Tale was such an inspiring story, I thought this one would be just like it. In some ways it is, but mostly it is not.

In the first half of the book, the story follows young women from a sanctuary "village" that is underground. They call this place, reverently, The panah (Persian for "sanctuary"). These outside women have chosen to become ladies of the night, rebels in the face of the Green City directives. Women whose sole purpose is to give the elite men of Green City comfort and companionship, without sex, at a time when women are much controlled.

The city ravaged by a disease that only affects women drops the population down to minuscule amounts leaving men to outnumber them 5:1. After years of war and suffering, a set of directives was formed to control the population and help give it boost in the female population.

Only women suffer here.

Forced to take four or five husbands who are assigned to them by the government, each woman is required to take fertility drugs and have as many babies as they can produce with each husband. Women are not allowed to work or do anything but be homemakers and reproducers. Indeed the whole of Green City is run by men.

When a man is considered too old to have children, he is longer able to be a husband. They are not allowed to be with women at all, leaving them alone and needing. Women, who have no choice as to who they will be with, also feel alone but have no choice in the matter.

This is where the panah comes in. A half of a dozen women have escaped Green City and lived underground and only go to older elite men who cannot have women on a routine basis. Their jobs are tiring and long. They do not usually feel for the men and have a hard time adjusting to the rules.

Sabine, a woman of the panah, is the main character along with Lin, the woman responsible for running the panah. 

In Sabine, there is a vast emotional void. She hadn't felt for anyone since her mother died when she was a child. Lin, a woman who has been with the panah since childhood as the creator's niece, helped Sabine when she first came to her. Sabine is also a chronic insomniac. She longs for sleep, yet never gets it.

There is Joseph, the clingy client that loves and wants Sabine for his very own; yet, Sabine cannot stand him. He does everything to impress her. Cook gourmet meals, give her gifts, which she readily gives back. He also begs her to stay. Joseph is becoming very very frustrated, especially since they cannot have sex with their clients.

Then there is Reuben Faro. The most important man in Green City. He runs the bureau and makes sure that women are following the directives. Any sign of rebellion or revolt from women or men results in an arrest and subsequent execution. Lin has a relationship with him, and it proves, in this book, to be a manipulative one.

The second half of the book describes a very different situation as Sabine has something terrible happen to her which lands her in the hospital. This is when the famous Reuben Faro gets involved and brings the Agency with him. The doctors, who are sympathetic to Sabine's situation, race against time to get her, not only out of a tightly monitored hospital but to the border and over to a city where she will be safe.

Meanwhile, the panah is now in danger. What is Lin going to do? What about her relationship with Reuben? Was it all a ruse?

What did Joseph do? Was he a player in this injury to Sabine?

This book details life in a city where women are not valued for anything more than reproduction. Love is gone and so is understanding. This is a story that is very important for our time because it can happen, somewhere. In China, today, they are expeiencing a shortage of women and I fear this would be something that could happen there. I felt very engrossed in the story, not just for the sake of the story, but the message as well. Like Vox, this book talks about control of women and making them into something more like objects than people.

The writing is exemplary and shows great skill. I was able to negotiate each sentence, each paragraph without so much as a blink. The author made sure to write this story for anyone. This is not a difficult read, but it is intelligent.

The chapters are in a third person POV, yet they go through each of the women's days and how they arrive at the climax of the final chapters. There is also, in the second half of the book, the third person POV of a young doctor in the hospital treating Sabine. This was a compelling and beautiful tale. The plot was consistent with some subplots that were answered but in scary ways. It was shocking.

What I Liked:
The struggle of women against a society of men is genuine in many countries today. The advanced directives to make women nothing more than reproducers is a far-fetched one, but realistic at the same time. I enjoyed reading about rebellion — the refusal to be part of what is so awful for women and why they did it. The Panah existed to protect women from the terrible fate of being a wife to four or five husbands and being pregnant all the time. This would be me. I cannot see myself being controlled and made to marry a lot of men that I did not know and did not love.

What I Didn't Like:
This was one of those stories where the ending was abrupt and left a lot of questions you want to be answered. I am not saying I am unhappy with the ending; I am glad it ended with the answers I did get; but, I would have liked maybe a few more chapters answering the lingering questions as to what happens now? Because that was not there, I took off a point from my rating. This is the ending I do not like.

Overall Impression:
She Sleeps a work of a master and someone who is hyperaware of troubled societies; and, where they could go if given the opportunity. This book is being added to my Most Important Reads of 2018. I was very impressed with the style of the book, the pacing, the plot and the significance this book could have. I rated this book a 4.00.
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,517 reviews456 followers
July 4, 2018
The latest in the increasingly popular feminist dystopian genre and quite a good one. The world of the near future has been torn and restructured by a global war in the Levant and particularly South West Asia, where the book takes place. Green City is an artificial creation of terraforming a desert to become a suitable place to live, but after a large number of the female population dies out the new austerity rules come into play. The surviving women become essentially breeding machines with multiple male partners to a family to ensure gene variation presumably. Small portion of women rebels and chooses to live on the fringes of the existing society, their lifestyle financed by providing a sort of escort service that offers companionship to eligible men. A precarious situation at best and then a snafu makes it all the more complicated to sustain. Intriguing, isn’t it? Told from multiple perspectives the novel weaves a tight dynamic narrative I found quite compelling. Though I didn’t buy the premise of all these men of power looking exclusively for cuddles and platonic comfort (that seems naïve and biologically implausible), the world Bina Shah created was terrifyingly plausible. Of course, this isn’t a flight of imagination, the author is from Pakistan (Karachi born and US educated), a place with a dismal gender equality index where the status of women is one of systemic gender subordination, so while this novel is sure to draw inevitable comparisons to a seminal Margaret Atwood’s work, it probably didn’t have to go far to look for inspirations. Actually come to think of it, this is probably my first time reading a Pakistani author, so yey for international reading. And also terrifying, really, particularly in its eerie realism, particularly as abortion laws are currently under attack in the US news, to think how easy it is for a civilized society to regress to oppression by any and every other name as a response to a change in circumstances utilizing horrifying phraseology like for the greater good. Timely, well written and intelligent, this is infinitely preferable to the estrogen dystopian variant where women go to any length to have babies despite apocalyptic conditions of the world around them. Thanks Netgalley.
Profile Image for The Geeky Bibliophile.
468 reviews89 followers
July 24, 2018
The population has been decimated by war and sickness, and few women are left in Green City. To solve the problem men created the Perpetuation Bureau, and women now have a single purpose in life: to be a Wife and have as many children as possible with her multiple husbands. Not becoming a Wife is a crime, but a place called the Panah offers sanctuary to women who refuse to live by the rules of this draconian system. Instead they come out at night, offering carefully selected men something they can’t get anywhere else—non-sexual intimacy with a woman. They have the illusion of freedom, but the women of the Panah can never be truly free when the discovery of one can be the ruination of them all.

The story is told from multiple viewpoints, mostly from the viewpoints of specific women residing in the Panah. Much of the focus is on a woman named Sabine, the main female protagonist. The story is also moved forward through the eyes of two different men, each of whom play an important role in the later part of the novel. With clearly marked chapters, it’s never a challenge to know whose point-of-view you’re currently reading, however.

For the most part, I enjoyed reading this book. The idea that men would be starved for intimacy that excluded sex is somewhat of a stretch, but it is presented in a believable way in the book. I liked the characters, and was interested in what would happen next for each of them, especially where Sabine was concerned. The latter portion of the book had some intense events going on that had me holding my breath and dreading what might happen… then I reached the end of the book.

If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you know that one of my pet peeves, when it comes to books, is loose ends. It drives me up the wall when gasp-worthy things happen in a book, with zero resolution for the character it happened to before the story ends. I get it:Sometimes the reader has to fill in the blanks about what happened with their own imagination, because the author chose to leave that tiny bit of mystery at the end. There are times it works beautifully—for example, Gone with the Wind leaving open the question of whether or not Scarlett got back together with Rhett. But there are some questions that NEED to be answered, or it tarnishes the reading experience as a whole. The questions left unanswered in Before She Sleeps were (for me) things that needed to be addressed, not left in limbo. I may be in the minority in that opinion, as I’ve felt dissatisfied with the way other dystopias ended, whereas others applauded the endings.

I’m glad I read this book, though, and look forward to seeing what other readers think about it!

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Delphinium Books via Netgalley.
Profile Image for Patty.
637 reviews42 followers
October 25, 2018
A feminist dystopia by a Pakistani writer. Many centuries in the future – after a few nuclear wars and breakdown of religions – the greatest crisis in the world is the "Gender Emergency", a mutated HPV virus that swept across the globe and killed off the vast majority of women without harming the men. In Green City the government has responded by elevating the remaining women to a high status. They're pampered and wealthy, it's a capital crime to physically harm them, and they're given anything they want – except autonomy. They have no education beyond topics related to running a household and having healthy pregnancies, are married off to multiple men (and given no choice about which men), and are kept constantly pregnant on fertility drugs.

The main character is Sabine, a young woman who ran away in terror when assigned to her first marriage and ended up in the Panah, a household of independant women who maintain their secret existence by providing non-sexual feminine company for powerful men.

This is an intriguing setup, but unfortunately the execution just doesn't work. The plot ultimately focuses on Sabine's relationship with a young man she meets, which makes the whole thing feel more like a YA novel than anything else: cruel government as an excuse for star-crossed romance. The last part of the book especially falls apart, as characters abruptly betray one another or make odd choices for no reason I can discern, while others make wild leaps of logic that seem to come from nowhere but which I guess we're supposed to take as true.

I wanted more worldbuilding. I do think the whole concept of platonic female companionship becoming incredibly valuable is plausible, particularly if they're skilled in conversation, arts, music, language, etc – just look at historical examples like the hetairai, geishas, or tawaifs. But the women of the Panah don't provide anything like that; they're literally just warm bodies to sleep beside. Sabine in particular is quite outwardly resentful of her clients, which makes it even less believable that they'd risk so much to spend time with her. There's also absolutely no consideration of what such a gender imbalance would do to GLBTQ issues – would there be a lot of situational male homosexuality, for example? how do trans women fit in? – beyond a brief reference to young boys experiencing increased incidents of rape. Really, Shah? That's the one detail you want to give us? Okay then.

Overall, not terrible, but there are better books taking on the same concept.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Kristy.
178 reviews
August 8, 2018
**Thank you to NetGalley and Delphinium Books for a free e-copy of Before She Sleeps in exchange for an honest review.**

This dystopian thriller is set in a time where war and disease have decimated the female population. In order to restore the population, women are made to take on multiple husbands and bear as many children as possible with the help of fertility drugs. However, in Green City, there's an underground group of women who refuse to abide by the these rules. They only emerge at night, giving powerful men the one thing they cannot find anywhere else: non-sexual companionship.

While I enjoyed the premise of this story, I'd still rate it 3 stars. It's an interesting story but would have benefited from a bit more world building. I would still recommend this book for those that enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale though. It's definitely in the same vein!
Profile Image for Joseph Carrabis.
Author 38 books88 followers
July 31, 2022
I started this book before the US Supreme Court demonstrated that great legal minds can also be idiots. That demonstration occurred half way through my read.
Before, I thought the book brilliant and profound. After, even more so.
Before She Sleeps is rich with some of the most beautiful language I've ever encountered. Often reading beautiful phrasing can throw one out of a book because the phrase stops the reader so they can savor the author's eloquence.
Not so here. The language is universally rich, so much so that the over-the-top brilliant passages merely hurried me along to read more.
I will offer the book ended too abruptly for me. I can accept the ending as written, everything is tied up, no loose ends, and I would have preferred it to linger a bit longer so I could bid the characters a better farewell for the joy they gave me.

I wrote specifically about this book's amazing opening line in my Great Opening Lines - and Why! (July 2022's Great Opening Lines) post.

Profile Image for Patricia Romero.
1,421 reviews41 followers
June 19, 2018
Sound familiar? From Pakistan author Bina Shah comes this look at a dystopian world where men have ruined everything with war and now the women must pay the price. Much like The Handmaid's Tale, the women are secluded. They are here to re-populate the world. And that is all. The women are repressed, treated like breeding stock and must take multiple husbands and keep on giving birth.

It is a patriarchal society and women have no rights.

But in every repressive regime, there are those women who just aren't going to follow meekly in line. They don't want to be a part of this system. And one woman has found a way out. And her niece will assume responsibility for all of the group next.

These women live underground and are secretly protected by a man at the highest levels of this new regime in Green City. They only come out at night and provide some of the wealthiest men with the one thing they can not buy. Comfort and intimacy without sex. They are like ghosts in the night. Always safely home come morning.

Until one morning one of them doesn't come home and the entire community will be changed.

I don't normally like dystopian novels, but the characters in this book were so engaging. And the story told so well, that I am looking forward to the next one!

Netgalley/ Delphinium August 7, 2018
Profile Image for Teresa.
1,472 reviews14 followers
May 18, 2020
I received this book for fee, and am very glad I did, because it is NOT worth paying for.

The synopsis makes it sound like you will get a view of what the women love e through and how they cope, but nope, you get only the view of women who escaped to live underground and are paid to visit lonesome men who want a cuddle.

And even though you see the world through numerous persons eyes, they all sound and think exactly the same way

One of the main layers “escapes” for 4 years and then is in a medical emergency. Her thoughts are absurd.. her narrative makes it sound like she was gone from birth, impossible to reintegrate after less than 4 years? Never imagined skyscrapers? What YOU’VE BEEN GONE 4 YEARS AND GO OUT EVERY NIGHT?!?!

And it’s men who lead women in a rebellion , because again, the women are too stupid or week.

Horrid book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Iqra Shagufta Cheema.
28 reviews25 followers
January 25, 2019
I was really excited to read this one since this is the first dystopic semi-sci-fi feminist novel from Pakistan. Overall, this is well written. But it left me wanting a little something extra... the characters were not satisfactorily developed, and the events read a little rushed in most chapters. Futuristic setting of the novel feels forced with excessive explanations of the future-bureaucratic and medical terms -- as if the writer herself does not believe the world that she has created in the novel. It disrupts the flow of reading at worst and creates a defamiliarizing effect at best. I like that multiple narrators get their own chapters, with the omniscient narrator moderating things between the reader and characters. Somewhere between 3.5 - 4.0 stars.
Profile Image for Alicen.
604 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2019
I was transported away by this gorgeously written dystopian novel by fellow Wellesley alumna, Bina Shah, and will be thinking about its themes for awhile to come.

"What else, in the end, truly binds us together, besides the desire for each other to be free?"
Profile Image for Callibso.
655 reviews16 followers
November 10, 2019
Dieses Buch kann man wohl in eine Kategorie wie »feministische dystopische SF« einordnen und wird es sicherlich auch mit Atwoods »Handmaid’s Tale« vergleichen wollen. Es ist eine Dystopie, die eine Gesellschaft mit dramatischen Änderungen im Geschlechterverhältnis zeigt: Nach einem Krieg gibt es in einem Staat Südwestasiens nur noch wenige fruchtbare Frauen. Diese müssen nun mit mindestens drei Männern verheiratet sein und möglichst viele Kinder zur Welt bringen. Die Beziehung zwischen Männern und Frauen ist auf die Kinderzeugung reduziert und die Rolle der Frauen auf Gebärmaschinen.

Natürlich gibt es - wie in jeder Dystopie - eine Gruppe von Menschen, die einen Weg aus der Unterdrückung sucht. In der Stadt Green City ist es eine Gruppe von Frauen, die sich einen Zufluchtsort, die »Panah«, geschaffen haben. Sie bieten eine spezielle vom Regime streng verbotene Dienstleistung an, an der Männer und eben auch höhere Repräsentanten des Staates interessiert sind, von denen die Frauen im Gegenzug geschützt werden. Das spannende an dieser Dienstleistung ist, dass die Frauen eben keinen Sex verkaufen, sondern »nur« menschliche Zuwendung, Trost und körperliche Nähe ohne den vom System für dieses Zusammensein geforderten Sex. Meist wollen die Männer einfach nur im Beisein einer Frau schlafen, sie können sich dann einbilden, wieder eine Gefährtin zu haben, keine Gebärmaschine. Ich glaube, es ist der Autorin sehr gut gelungen, dieses »Geschäftsmodell« plausibel darzustellen.

Für die Frauen im Panah ist es lebensgefährlich, ihr Versteck zu verlassen und zu den Klienten zu gehen. Gleichzeitig ist dies aber notwendig, denn nur so können sie sich den Schutz und auch lebensnotwendige Dinge verdienen. Durch eine interne Auseinandersetzung in der Frauengruppe kommt es zu einer Eskalation, eine Frau muss ins Krankenhaus und es droht die Entdeckung. Nun taucht ein junger Assistenzarzt auf und wir erfahren noch mehr über die Brutalität des Regimes und seinen Umgang mit den Menschen. Den folgenden Gang der Handlung fand ich nicht immer ganz schlüssig und auch fast ein wenig kitschig, dafür wird es aber spannend.

Das Buch ist aus einer Kurzgeschichte entstanden, die aus dem ersten Kapitel bestand. Dieses Kapitel hat mir auch am besten gefallen, die weitere Ausarbeitung fand ich trotz eines überzeugenden Stils etwas schwächer. Ich hatte mir den Widerstand politischer vorgestellt, aber der beschriebene Weg ist wahrscheinlich realistischer, die Frauen im »Panah« haben sich mit dem System arrangiert, sie versuchen zu überleben. Man erfährt nur wenig darüber, wie die Welt so geworden ist: ein nuklearer Winter wird erwähnt, von der allgemeinen geopolitischen Lage erfährt man wenig, da die Frauen auch nicht viel wissen.

Ich hatte vorher noch nie von der pakistanischen Autorin Binah Shah gehört, die in den USA studiert hat und heute als Journalistin in Karachi lebt und es ist Golkonda hoch anzurechnen, dass man ein solches Werk in einer schönen Hardcover Ausgabe veröffentlicht. Es wäre zu wünschen, wenn von Bina Shah noch mehr erscheinen würde.
Profile Image for Katie.
250 reviews1 follower
October 15, 2021
Intriguing premise, and I'm pleased the story defied my expectations of where it was going. Definitely has an eerie feel to it. Couldn't stop thinking about it in between reading times. The feminist messages really come through strongly, and the repression of women who are seemingly free and powerful. Strong 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Sonali Dabade.
Author 4 books314 followers
May 14, 2021
After Christina Dalcher's 'Vox', I didn't think another book would come by to slap me around the face and scream at me going, "YOU HATED THE HANDMAID'S TALE? WAIT TILL YOU READ ME!" Another book that disappointed me and infuriated me to no end. The plot is flimsy, the reasoning is meh, the whole savior complex accorded to men while using women as an exterior to pull a reader in saying that, "a woman escapes an oppressive regime because a man decided to help her because otherwise she cannot." I mean, I know why this happens and why this is shown, but do something different, no? Plus, it felt like the author herself was confused while drafting the plot and writing the characters, so much so that the whole thing feels pointless even though I see that it isn't. Nah, mate. Not for me.
Profile Image for Cobwebby Eldritch Reading Reindeer .
5,135 reviews271 followers
August 7, 2018
Review: BEFORE SHE SLEEPS by Bina Shah

BEFORE SHE SLEEPS is a work of feminist Dystopian futuristic science fiction. If this is the Future, I'm not going there. There is so much hubris in this story. The "Green City," constructed in a Desert (like the Hubris of Las Vegas and Dubai), the hubris of the patriarchs, thinking they can control women's bodies and lives (and do so all too efficiently), effectively utilizing women as breeders to propagate the populace {a common practice in Dystopian literature: see for example the science fiction of Pamela Sargent.
But always, always, there are rebels-dissidents--females who refuse to comply.
65 reviews2 followers
April 29, 2020
Feminist dystopian novel set (refreshingly) in South Asia. While the comparisons to the Handmaid's Tale abound in the reviews, I think we cannot have enough of these types of stories that help us examine where we might be headed. The world feels rather apocalyptic right now and imagining such dystopian futures is sadly not difficult. Her characters showed so much promise, I wish she had developed them a little more? Nevertheless, Bina's writing is beautiful. For that it was a joy to read.
Profile Image for Allison.
321 reviews19 followers
January 12, 2020
I think I've found my favorite genre: feminist dystopia. Before She Sleeps was honestly a less powerful rehash of The Handmaid's Tale but I loved every minute. If I'm totally honest, the enjoyment factor alone for me gives this book 5 stars. Objectively, however, it isn't too original and it really pulls its punches in a way I think does this story some injustice. The world building is also relatively weak. That said, I think this is an engaging book that has an important message.
Profile Image for Muhammad Samejo.
Author 2 books21 followers
July 1, 2022
Full disclosure: I love dystopian novels! The way how a future can be so bleak and chart out the hows and whys of how they came about is fascinating to watch, especially in the modern times we live in that show all the signs of heading towards dystopian and totalitarian societies in many ways. BFS appealed to me instantly because #MadeInPakistan and it also created a futuristic, dystopia out of the powderkeg that is South-East Asia. The book postulates a technologically advanced society emerging in the distant future after the fallout of a nuclear war, presumably between India and Pakistan, and is reeling from a Virus that kills only the women. With a major population crisis, the government sanctions that women must take on multiple husbands and that the purpose of Wives would be to repopulate the species. Rebelling against this norm are the denizens of the Panah; single women who offer the powerful men of the state kind of non-sexual intimacy that is a long-forgotten privilege for the masses.

The book does a fabulous job of world-building for the glossy veneer of Green City as well as the natural evolution of its society. It feels relevant considering all the native themes and myths it uses along with the names in Persian, Urdu, and Hindi. The science of the age is also well presented as is the possible history of the region which doesn’t feel far off with the ever-escalating and de-escalating political tensions. The characters are also well portrayed with their motivations and conflicts reasonably fleshed out. What could have been better was the plot which I felt did very well in the first half of the book but was pretty rushed in the latter half. I didn’t feel that the stakes at the end were high enough to warrant the way things ended.

Overall, I loved writing and editing, the portrayal of a dystopian future, and character building. It’s only the unsatisfying conclusion that didn’t do it for me.
Profile Image for mad mags.
1,123 reviews82 followers
September 6, 2018
I had such high hopes for this one!

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through Netgalley. Trigger warning for violence against women, including rape.)

When I got to the Panah, I was unused to the sight of women’s bodies not swollen and distorted by pregnancy. It seemed wrong, at first, as if something was missing. It took me months to realize that a woman’s stomach wasn’t always convex; that its default state was not always filled with another being.

DNF at 59%, because life is too short to spend time on books that just aren't doing it for you.

Set in the kind-of distant future, Before She Sleeps imagines a world wherein women are a scarce commodity. Nuclear war and climate change have drastically altered the landscape of South West Asia (and, indeed, the world), while a gender-specific virus has wiped out a majority of its female citizens. In the resulting chaos and power vacuum, an authoritarian order known as the Authority seized control.

Within the borders of Green City, life is strictly regimented - for everyone, but women especially. Women are not allowed to: work outside the home, keep journals, choose their own husbands (or number thereof), or use contraception, obtain abortions, or engage in family planning of any sort. They are required to maintain public profiles, so that men can shop for them online like so many consumer goods (unlike laptops, though, women cannot be bought or sold - only the Perpetuation Bureau can assign a Wife a new Husband); undergo rigorous and routine physical exams, including fertility monitoring; and accept as many Husbands - and pregnancies - as the Bureau deems fit.

It's the inverse of fundamentalist Mormons, yet somehow women get the short end of the stick in this arrangement too (shocking, that!). Ostensibly, women are precious cargo to be treated with care and respect: in Green City, "it [is] a capital crime to hit or abuse a woman." However, rape is a de facto part of the marriage system, as women are not permitted to choose their partners, nor deny them "life-giving" sex. After all, that is a woman's sole purpose in society: to bear as many children as possible.

Yet girls and women still find ways to resist. Some children hide messages for each other, illicit forms of communication in a society where females are given precious little opportunity to interact with one another. On the more extreme end are the runaways, the fugitives, the disappeared women. Some of these women find their way to the Panah, a refuge located in a long-forgotten underground bunker on the outskirts of town. There they work as escorts, but instead of sex, they deal in emotional intimacy, something sorely lacking in these modern, dystopian marriages. Within this backdrop, we meet Lin, the niece of one of the Panah's founders; Sabine, who escaped an early marriage arranged by her own father; and Rupa, who longs to return to society, despite the miseries it rained down upon her as a girl.

Before She Sleeps sounds like it should be right up my alley: I love dystopias, doubly so if they have a feminist bent, and I am a total Margaret Atwood fangirl. (Comparisons to The Handmaid's Tale never fail to reel me in.) This seemed like a slam dunk. And, while I adore the concept, the actual execution left much to be desired. For lack of a more eloquent way of putting it, Before She Sleeps just didn't do it for me.

Each chapter alternates between a different character's perspective. This was all fine and good when it was just Lin, Sabine, and Rupa - but once Shah tossed in a few of Green City's male denizens mid-book, it got to be a little too much for me. Moreover, I never really got a sense of each character's distinct personality; the overall writing style felt pretty uniform across chapters. Oftentimes the character's physical reactions felt overdone to the point of a bad B movie script. When imagining how some scenes might play out, all I could picture were comically terrible improv actors. Cringe-worthy doesn't begin to describe it.

There are also quite a few info dumps - which, it must be said, isn't always a mood killer for me, but here they often popped up in weird and awkward places. To wit: As Reuben races across town to retrieve his illicit mistress's illegal girl, passed out unconscious in the street and maybe dying of who knows what, his thoughts randomly wander to ... how he became one of the most powerful men in Green City? I mean, seriously! More likely that train of thought would go something like this: "OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT FUCK WHAT AM I GONNA DO WE ARE SO FUCKED OH SHIT PLEASE DON'T LET THERE BE A RED LIGHT OH FUCK ME FUCK THIS FUCK EVERYTHING I AM TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT I NEED A VACATION."

So, yeah, file this one in the "devastating disappointment" drawer. Bummer!

Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,445 reviews192 followers
August 14, 2018
3.5 stars. In Green City, it is the job of every woman to take as many husbands as the government allows and to have as many babies (hopefully many female babies) as they can in order to overcome the gender crisis that has left Green City with many more men than women. It is very mechanical and there is not much room for love and affection. The women of the underground fulfill the need for touch and affection of the non-intimate kind but when one of the powerful men that employ their services goes too far, everything will be upended.

I love dystopian and was looking forward to reading this one, which takes place outside of the Western world in South West Asia. This part of the world has a very interesting history that led to a great background for how this story transpires. I loved that the setting of this book was off the beaten path.

The story follows three women who all have very different reasons for ending up where they are. They all handle their lives in the underground of society in some way. Some are happy with their existence out of the eye of the government, others would give anything for things to be different and to find some sort of genuine love. Others just want to watch the world burn. I loved seeing how these very different woman deal with this difficult situation that they find themselves in. I did wish that we got to know a little bit more about these characters and what makes them tick.

The book has nice pacing but I wish that the end would have not come so abruptly. It's a great ending but I found myself wondering what happened after the end of the book. More of a conclusion would have been nice. Overall, this was a good read!
Profile Image for Hannie Han Han.
21 reviews2 followers
August 16, 2018
Knowing nothing about this book besides the fact that it was written by a fellow Wellesley grad and another Wellesley grad said she couldn’t put it down, I dove into this book and have enjoyed every moment of reading it, even the ones that made me feel queasy. Bina Shah does an excellent job of creating a futuristic world that is believable with characters of incredible depth and complexity. When the book ended I was sad to leave it. I hope she writes a sequel.
Profile Image for Juliane.
588 reviews5 followers
July 14, 2019
Die Rezension findet ihr auch hier:

Über einen Newsletter bin ich auf dieses Buch aufmerksam geworden und ich war sofort von der Grundidee eingenommen. Es spielt in der Zukunft. Es spielt in einer ehemals asiatischen Gegend (yay, mal nicht Amerika!) und es geht um eine Rebellion von Frauen. All das machte mich neugierig. Zudem stand das liebliche Cover (was mir sehr gefällt) im starken Kontrast zu der Geschichte, die eine Mischung aus Dystopie, Science Fiction und Gesellschaftsroman ist.

Ich begann zu lesen und war direkt voll dabei. Am Anfang liest man nämlich einen Auszug aus den Regeln von Green City und die sind echt unfassbar. Einerseits sind sie so extrem überspitzt, und auf der anderen Seite hatte ich ständig den Gedanken „das könnte wirklich so kommen!“ und „die Menschen sind jetzt schon so verrückt, in einer solchen Extremsituation könnte sich die Welt so entwickeln“. Das Gefühl begleitete mich fast den ganzen Roman über. Es jagt einen Schauer über den Rücken und lässt einen die aktuelle Gesellschaft klar überdenken.

Man verfolgt eine kleine Gruppe an Menschen, lernt nur eine handvoll Personen richtig kennen. Gerade Sabine ist mir sehr ans Herz gewachsen und ich mochte es, ihre Geschichte zu verfolgen. Ihre Gefühle waren echt gut dargestellt, ihre Ohnmacht, die Angst. Die Dinge, die ihr geschehen, haben mich total überrascht. Denn ich hatte bei dem Roman mit einem eher ruhigen Erzählfluss gerechnet, der eher die Gesellschaft beschreibt. Doch nein, hier wird einem Action und Spannung geboten. Ich hing an den Seiten und musste wissen, wie es ausgeht. Es war mehr ein Krimi als eine Erzählung.

Und zack – dann war es schon vorbei. Wirklich. Es fühlte sich an als hätte ich eine Novelle gelesen. Es ist so schade, dass die Geschichte nicht mindestens dreimal so lang ist. Die ganze Welt, die Personen, dieses Konstrukt. Es hätte mehr verdient. Mehr Entfaltung. So hat man einen Einblick bekommen, hat Lust auf mehr bekommen und wird irgendwie hängen gelassen. Das Ende ist mir zu rund und zu einfach. Zu viele Fragen bleiben gleichzeitig offen. Ich hoffe, es folgt mehr von der Autorin – ebenfalls als Film oder Serie kann ich mir diesen Roman richtig gut vorstellen.

Der Roman wird mit dem Klassiker „Der Report der Magd“ von Margret Atwood verglichen. Und ja, schon allein der Plot ist sehr ähnlich. Doch die Ausführung und die Art des Romans unterscheidet sich stark. Während ich bei „Der Report der Magd“ mit vielen Längen zu kämpfen hatte, ist „Die Geschichte der schweigenden Frauen“ sehr spannend und extrem kurzweilig. Beide regen allerdings dieselben Gedanken an und spiegeln die möglichen Gefahren der heutigen Welt.


Insgesamt hat mich diese Geschichte wirklich fasziniert. Diese Grundidee ist so erschreckend und gleichzeitig so möglich. Ich mochte es sehr, wie detailliert die Gefühle beschrieben werden und wie nah man sich den Protagonisten fühlt. Außerdem war ich ganz gefangen von der Spannung, die sich für mich so überraschend aufgebaut hat. Allerdings empfand ich die Geschichte als viel zu kurz. Sie konnte auf den wenigen Seiten ihr volles Potential nicht entfalten.
Profile Image for Nadine.
1,157 reviews222 followers
August 3, 2018
Before She Sleeps features an interesting enough society that is, unfortunately, not expanded upon enough because the focus of the novel is on the characters’ reactions to the world rather than the world itself.

It’s always a disappointment when an author chooses to focus solely on the characters at the expense of the world building. Dystopian novels like these excel when they’re grounded in a solid world. Whether the world building is believable from a realistic viewpoint is irrelevant as long as what’s being presented is consistent within the narrative. Before She Sleeps could’ve been a success had the author made more of an effort in terms of world building.

What initially caught my attention about this novel was the fact that the story revolves around women who are contracted out to give intimacy without sex since the ratio of men to women favours the men. I’ll admit that the idea of men being starved of intimacy without sex seems like a stretch, but Shah presents it in a believable setting. The characters all work in tandem to create this believable network of women within this highly patriarchal society.

Shah opens up the novel strongly with a solid ground for the characters to take root and grow. The reader is introduced to the world, key players, and the set up for the climax of the novel relatively early. However, after the first 75 pages, the novel takes on a fast pace that moves too quickly as convenience after convenience allows the plot to move forward. It’s a whirlwind of a novel that doesn’t have the impact it’s trying to attain.

Novels like these are always compared to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Atwood has set the standard for feminist dystopian novels high, as few have been able to achieve the same level of success and widespread acceptance. Unfortunately, Before She Sleeps doesn’t accomplish what Atwood was able to though it’s far from the worst feminist dystopian novel I’ve read. In my opinion, it’s faults lies in the poor world building and too fast pace.

Overall, Before She Sleeps is a decent novel in this overwritten genre that focuses almost solely on the characters at the expense of the world.

*** I was provided an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sue .
1,653 reviews97 followers
July 29, 2018
In a future world, due to illness and war the population is dying out. To circumvent this problem, the men in charge decide that women's ONLY goal is to bring new babies into the world. To accomplish this, each woman is required to have multiple husbands. The husbands treat their wife well and buy her whatever she wants but her main goal is to become pregnant and bring new life into their world. What the new rulers of this world chose to ignore is that they have taken something vital from women - FREE CHOICE. This novel is about a group of women who refuse to follow the rules and live underground in secret. They come out at night to provide the one thing that men can no longer get - comfort and care - not sex but comfort and intimacy without sex.

This is a well written story about life in a patriarchal society with absolutely no rights for women. The main characters are well written and the plot about the underground group going against government rules makes it a very interesting story. Even though this is NOT one of my favorite genres, I'm very glad that I read this book and I think it's going to stay with me for a long time.

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 271 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.