Half of the Human Race centres on a romance between Connie Callaway, the daughter of a middle class Islington family who are struggling a little following the death of her father, and Will Maitland, a friend of her cousin and a rising cricket star.
They are attracted to each other immediately, but Connie wants more than her mother and sister’s routine aspirations of marriage and material comfort, and at 21 has joined the Suffragettes. She therefore has no compunction advising Will on his batting technique, which comes as a shock to him, conditioned as he is to regard “a lady’s opinion as merely decorative”. They quarrel and the fate of their relationship is never conclusively resolved.
The novel is told alternately through the thoughts and observations of both characters. Connie is at times presented in a very unfortunate “hysterical feminist” manner and any difficulties Connie and Will have are generally presented as a product of their different genders, not as a result of different political ideals. Despite many encounters with Connie, Will never quite understands the Suffragette cause and has no political views beyond loyalty to king and country. He doesn’t even vote.
In spite of these criticisms, Half of the Human Race is worth reading. The vivid descriptions of women’s prisons and the trenches of the First World War are tremendously powerful, as is the reminder of the shocking restrictions placed on women a mere century ago.
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