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The Shore of Women

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,109 ratings  ·  135 reviews
In a story set in a post-nuclear future where women rule the world and men are expelled from cities to wilderness, a meeting between a man and an exiled woman triggers a series of feelings, actions, and events. Reprint.
Paperback, 469 pages
Published November 1st 2004 by Benbella Books (first published 1986)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  1,109 ratings  ·  135 reviews

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Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed this book's exploration of daring feminist themes like "Wouldn't it be awful if the world was controlled by domineering man-hating lesbian separatists who forced all the men to live in primitive squalor? I bet they'd ostracize any woman who even wondered if men should be treated like more than sperm factories." and "Know what's way more natural and fulfilling than same-sex relationships? Heterosexual monogamy! Your lesbian commune will think it's gross, but follow your heart!"

A man writes a dystopian piece of literature where the government is consisted of men and women are oppressed - it's just a work of fiction. A woman writes a dystopian piece of literature where the totalitarian government is consisted of women and oppresses men - it is immediately labeled feminist.
Apr 16, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Warning: This review is full of expletives.

This book was terrible. It wasn't just the story, or the huge boring info dumps. The ebook was full of odd discrepancies. Like, the main male character was Arvil in the text and Avril in the headings. Lol. Capital C's were rendered as G's. That type of thing.

The first section focused on a female character inside the city who doesn't know what to do with her life. She's bad at math (FUCK YOU, "feminist" author) and besides, science and stuff hadn't progr
This book is often given a spot on lists of classic feminist sci-fi. The post-apocolyptic setting tells a story of women living in high-tech enclaves/cities while men are banished to the wilderness to live in hunter/gatherer bands. The men are encouraged to worship the female Goddess and are "called" to the enclaves to provide sperm. Boy children are sent out to live with the men while daughters remain in the enclaves.

The book had two major problems for me:

1) The overarching hetero-normative to
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I feel like some of the reviewers didn’t really get the book. It’s a think-piece, not a mindless read, so if you take the story at face value you aren’t going to get the whole point.

To clarify: the book challenges social norms. If you take those challenges at their face value (as the characters in the novel do) you’re not going to get the same critical look at society that you would if you view them as criticism of the norm. This happens in multiple places in the book: the female-led society, th
Diana Kathryn Plopa
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 12 yrs and older
Recommended to Diana by:
This dystopian story deals with the reversal of roles between men and women, and who holds the power. The investigation of what might be different if women were in charge was a fascinating premise, heightened by the meticulous physical descriptions of people, places and survival tactics on both sides of the wall.

I was very impressed with Pamela Sargent's storytelling in this book. Her use of an involved character to tell the story was especially interesting to me. I was unaware who, exactly, th
It feels very weird to give this book 4 stars. Because there was so much that I did *not* like about it, so much that was flawed, and yet I found the story really interesting nonetheless and I expect I'll keep thinking about it long after having finished it.

*light spoilers ahead*

To start off with what's not likeable: oh sweet gasping goodness, the gender essentialism. The world, where females live apart from men in technologically advanced enclaves and men live on the outside in caveman-like ban
Megan Baxter
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I have now read at least three books that are about a world without men. Or rather, if not a world without men, a world where women are the safekeepers of civilization, and men are exiled to short brutish lives in the wilderness. There's a distinct women/urban centers/civilization vs. men/wilderness/savagery vibe to most of them. (The third, to be precise, is about a world where a plague killed off all the men. Oh, and of course, there's Y: The Last Man as well. So, four.) With the exception of ...more
Magical storytelling

I am retired now and catching up on my classic science fiction reading. I wish I had read this 20 years ago. Told from multiple perspectives, paced beautifully and with a little plot twist at the end, The Shore of Women is at its core a love story. But there is no fairy tale ending, no Cinderella, no Snow White, in this tale. It is the story of a man and a woman trying to survive in a brutal world not of their making. This is another book that anyone who likes great science
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jessie Potts
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
I'm torn. I enjoyed this book and felt like there were a lot of good parts and aspects that made it an enjoyable dystopian/alternate future novel. At the same time, it bothered me that this was called a feminist sci-fi book. Just because women are in charge does not make it a feminist book, and there wasn't enough sci-fi gadgets/space exploring to really make me feel like this should be in the sci-fi genre. We have scanners and gene maps now, ok so their ships were floating and round, but still ...more
Bill Dauster
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Shore of Women is a classic of feminist science fiction, imagining a post-apocalyptic world run by women, where men are relegated to a barbarian existence beyond the bounds of civilization. Women maintain their hegemony through technological superiority, a religion that venerates the Lady, and harsh enforcement of the dominant ideology. Then the female metropolis exiles two women to fend for themselves (and presumably die) in the hazard-filled land of men. Sargent tells the tale in alternati ...more
David Nix
Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This novel left me very contemplative for some time after reading the final words. In a bold undertaking as a storyteller, Ms. Sargent tells of a distant future where war-weary women have exiled men to live as savages outside the walls of women-only futuristic cities, taking reproductive material only as needed to keep the species alive. The story follows an exiled woman, Birana, who forms what is considered an impossible and disgusting bond with a man named Arvil - one of love.

The story is slow
sweet pea
it's apparent that i can't read enough post-apocalyptic literature. this novel is set in a world much like the (later) The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper. womyn and men live separately, with womyn (seemingly) in control. The Shore of Women is possibly the most intriguing battle of the sexes i have ever read. the first half shows womyn firmly in power with the men savage little puppets. the second half shows how tenuous women's control could be and how savage. ultimately, it's unclear ...more
Dana Quadri
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
At its core, this is great story telling. details are rich. nothing is cliche or expected. it's a love story without the typical turns or ends. quite frankly it's very real which is strange in a science fiction setting. but then.... then this book deals with so much more. not just feminism. but politics. government control with almost a 1984-esque feel. sexual identity and orientation. the stark contrast of nature and technology. the separation of men and women becomes more than a difference in ...more
Kay Baird
May 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
People in this world normally have only homosexual relationships, but the two main characters discover heterosexual love. Descriptions of their love-making are explicit and I enjoyed them but they didn't turn me on. Their struggle with the sex while finding their caring for each other ... was sweet as well as emotionally painful. No descriptions of single-sex love, except for passing references. One passing reference however did turn me on, when the male protagonist muses on the "sharper" joys o ...more
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There was something really captivating about this story. It’s an adventure journey story and the main characters all go through their respective arc as the story progressives and we learn about this version of the future. A tad too long but it does provide some interesting reflections on gender bendy notions and constructs as well as power. Im surprised this hasn’t been turned into a dramatic series or film given the YA characters and journey. I would recommend reading this if you like your sci- ...more
Given our collective frustration with the election/current administration/ongoing hot mess of the US right now, I figured that some good old 80s feminist sci-fi would soothe my soul. The back of this one promised to cure what ails me, with its post-apocalyptic, toss those foolish men out of our cities, sisterhood surviving 4-evah vibe going on.

This is the tale of a young woman raised in the technologically advanced city of the future where education and stewardship of humanity are valued goals,
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
With the recent popularity of feminist dystopia, I thought this book warranted a re-read. I read it in high school, without a critical eye, but it made an impression. I never forgot the title, the author, the basic plot structure and premise, and I have found myself referencing it regularly over the years.

In a word, this book is evocative! It posits questions about religion, nature v. nurture, essentialism, maleness and femaleness, cultural conditioning, oral history, brainwashing, love, violen
Apr 20, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
I picked this up at a SF convention and kept at it for about 200 pages, since it's light enough reading and has an interesting premise.

But oh goodness, I'm afraid I have to leave this novel back in the 1980s where it came from. I can take or leave the exploration of the premise -there's a lot of weird gender essentialism going on here that I don't think is going to get resolved by the end of the story, and then there's the lameness of a setting where all relationships are queer relationships, bu
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, utopia
Dystopia, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic and so on are not just overused terms in describing contemporary sci-fi/speculate fiction, they are almost always used incorrectly. Apocalypse does not mean the end of the world; it means the end of the world as we know it. 'Singularity' is the closest contemporary synonym. Dystopia is not just a bad world. Dystopia is the use of utopian elements to create undesirable outcome. You know Huxley's 'Brave New World.' You don't know his utopia 'Island.' The str ...more
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Interesting concept, and fairly well executed characters. I really enjoyed it, spent a lot of time thinking of the "what if" scenarios the book presented. The only, very small, problem I had was the central premise of the book that men and women live separately, is impossible to believe. Several time while reading I would think how this society is just not possible. However that is a very small nit, the book is well written and the story exciting and interesting, so I kept picking it up every fr ...more
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hate that it was labled as Feminist Fiction.

This story made me think of a version the Adam And Eve story and of the movie The Blue Lagoon. I reads like fiction but is an essay on the animal instincts we have and how societal norms force us into non natural patterns.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can't say this book is perfect, but I'm still going to give it 5 🌟. It's about a land, probably north America, centuries after the nuclear apocalypse. When the Earth seemed healed enough, the survivors made their way from the underground shelters and began to create civilization again. Women gathered together, separating themselves from men, in the belief that men could not be trusted with the reins of leadership again, lest their tendency towards violence destroy the world again. So women bui ...more
Jennifer Pulley
Not the book I was expecting

The book The Shore of Women was... okay. I really like Pamela Sargent’s writing style and the narrative structure, but the story was not my favorite. I’ve read other feminist sci fi that was both more science fiction than this and a better type of feminist fiction. My recommendation instead would be the Native Tongue trilogy by Suzette Haden Elgin. I look forward to finally reading The Gate to Woman’s Country by Sherri S. Tepper; I understand the concept is similar to
A thought-provoking dystopia where women and men live in different, separate societies that are not allowed to be in contact. Several ideas might be problematic to contemporary sensibilities. (This was written in the 80s). Regardless, it is the kind of story that lends itself to interesting discussions about gender equality and how society is always trying to find ways to define and control sexuality.
Mar 15, 2017 marked it as to-read
I think I read this as a young teen! I remember really liking it and also be really challenged by it!
May 21, 2016 rated it liked it
I was disappointed in this novel, at least as an engaging, "feminist" SF novel.

It's clearly a product of its time (1986, about 30 years ago): but even then, gender essentialism was only a small part of feminist thought and theory. It's vital to the premises of this novel, though.

Women and men have no actual contact with each other, and both have weird ideas of the Other. The women have claimed tech, and are stagnating in their walled citadels; meanwhile the men revel in life "nasty, brutish and
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Classic feminist sf, or at least that is how it is usually labelled: women live in hi-tech urban enclaves, while men are consigned to a nasty, brutish, short life of scrabbling in the wilderness, worshipping the female principle, as punishment for having caused the (unspecified) world-wrecking disaster centuries ago.[return][return]It's not that different from Sherri S. Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country. Sargent's characters are more three ...more
TL;DR - I loved this book. If nothing else, it's a fantastic story. I'd recommend it to everyone and anyone to read.

Not sure I really want to review, as I kind of want the book to speak for itself.

Some of the closing paragraphs near the end:

Those outside are our brothers. [...] They are our fathers and our sons. There is something of us in them and something of them in us.

We are being given a chance to reach out to our other selves. What we do will show what we are and determine what we shall
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Feminist Science ...: The Shore of Women by Pamela Sargent (September 2014) 8 34 Oct 19, 2014 10:59AM  

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Pamela Sargent has won the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and has been a finalist for the Hugo Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Sidewise Award for alternate history. In 2012, she was honored with the Pilgrim Award by the Science Fiction Research Association for lifetime achievement in science fiction scholarship. She is the author of the novels Cloned Lives, The Sudden Star, Wa ...more

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“My self-imposed solitude, at first a punishment I inflicted upon myself, became a kind of solace. I was apart from the city, my only reality the thoughts inside myself. Slowly, without the distractions of other companions and the need to mold and modify my ideas in their company, I came to know my own mind and the kind of purpose I might find in my work.” 1 likes
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