[Disclaimer: This review is just for Herland. I’ve chosen not to review The Yellow Wallpaper at this time.]
I should love this book, I really should. If everything I’ve heard or read about how important and groundbreaking Herland is can be believed then this should have immediately become one of the most valued books I’ve read in a long time. Unfortuantely, for me the experience simply didn’t match up to the hype that had somehow built up around the book itself.
That isn’t to say that this is a bad book, or any less worthy of the praise it’s received in the past. However, I found that it suffered perhaps too much as being a product of its time, and while it quite obviously had serious relevance for quite a large portion of the twentieth century, I do believe that it no longer quite carries its core message as well as it probably did back when it was frst published.
If you bypass the feminist arguments and message that are central to this book’s themes then it becomes a fairly generic adventure story for its time. Three dashing male adventurers set off in search of a mystical place that everyone believes is nothing more than a legend, and when they reach their destination they uncover various wonders and get into various scrapes as they butt heads with the locals. However,i it’s next to impossible to ignore those central themes; they are what make the story what it is, and without them the book as a whole simply collapses.
I’d recommend this book to anyone studying the history and growth of feminism, especially as it pertains to science fiction. It’s an important book in that context as it’s one of the earlier examples of feminist sci-fi.