"This book is quite unlike any other book I have read, but I would imagine it would appeal to lovers of dystopian fiction (predominantly women) and Atwood fans.
This is the story of 40 women (well it starts as 39 women and one small child) told from the perspective of the nameless child, our introspective guide throughout the book. We are first introduced to the women in an underground bunker, a bunker that has supposedly everything they need (aside from privacy) to survive. Not flourish.
The bunker is manned by guards that do not engage with each other nor with the women, except to crack their whips if a rule is broken, rules such as touch or harming oneself or others. Rules which the women only vaguely recollect from their early days in the bunker, of which the child takes as the status quo.
The women do not know how they came to be here, what event transpired, who is holding them, for what purpose or even if they are still on Earth, however after well over a decade (which can only be gauged by how old the child now appears to be) any such speculation has halted and the women have fallen into a ‘daily’ rhythm dictated by the artificial lighting, the changing of the guards and the arrival of food.
The child an adolescent when we meet her describes these women placing herself very much on the outside, seeing herself as ‘other’ as she has not experienced the world as these women have, she does not hold memories of loves, children, jobs, school, relationships or objects. Her world is the bunker and therefore she seems to suffer less than the other women, although she is perplexed and continually frustrated at their common knowledge and the secrets she deems them to keep from her. Yet despite her feeling unconnected/ less human, it could be seen that her feelings towards the women aren’t entirely dissimilar to that of teenage daughters to their mothers.
Throughout the book, she continually navigates her changing feelings towards the women as they age, and the realisation that she could be alone when the women die, and how different she is from them, which in some ways becomes very much a strength.
One day a siren goes off and guards in a hurry to evacuate leave the door to their large cage within the bunker unlocked. As the women tentatively take steps to leave their bunker the speculation and their reality change, where are they? Why? Are their others? And how far will they have to travel on their journey in the hope of finding answers?
I Who Have Never Known Men is about the relationships forged between these women, the need for connection, the feeling of ‘other’ and the need/ desire for roots."