Book Review: Who runs the world by Virginia Bergolt

Author: Virginia Bergin

Who Runs The World

At Felixstowe Book Festival, I treated myself to this book following Virginia’s talk about how she wrote it.

What is the book about?

An airborne disease infects all the males in the world but women are immune. Males are kept safe in sanctuaries as soon as they are born. The rest of the world is run by women. Only the elderly remember life with males.

Virginia wrote this book imagining what the word would be like if men were not part of the world. First she had to decide how to make this world possible and then how this impact would change life as we know it.

How it starts

Fourteen year old River finds an XY (what boys are called) unconscious in the road. She takes him home to her family.

The middle

The family decide to keep the boy and help him heal. It is a miracle he has survived outside the sanctuaries. The laws require he be reported and returned or killed if to sick. The family have to keep him hidden.

Adapting to life with a boy is the main focus. River needs to be aware of her nudity. The boy, Mason, has different mannerisms and customs – like a foreigner in her world.

How it ends

River has an obsession with planes and one of her favourites arrives at a nearby town. She goes to the hanger but it is being kept locked up.

River manages to get in by offering to help refuel the plane. Whilst there she sees a man and helps him escape but things turn nasty and she ends up killing him with a rock. There hasn’t been any murders in years so when Mason takes the blame, everyone believes him.

River then helps Mason find his mum because if they can there is a way around the law. River and Mason then leave to find his mum. When they do, she accepts him and as a result keeps him safe. C

What did I think

The book really made me think about how our genders do play a part in our identity and how others perceive us. I found the world Virginia created was cleverly thought out.

The book started by throwing us right into the action. It was written in first person POV enabling me to feel her distrust and fear of the boy.

Virginia’s writing was really strong and vivid. I would definitely be interested in reading more by this author.

I met Virginia at Felixstowe Book Festival. You can read all about it by clicking here.

I preferred this to The Gender Game by Bella Forrest which is about the world divide between men and women. You can read my review here.

Have you read any of Virginia’s books or have any recommendations for my reading list?


Who runs the world?

Lunch with Hayley Long and Virginia Bergin

This was the second event of the 2018 Felixstowe Book Festival that I chose to attend.

It was hosted at Felixstowe Library and they put on a selection of nibbles.  The sandwiches were really good and I got a glass of fresh orange juice in a wine glass (very sophisticated).  Not so sophisticated was trying to juggle my paper plate, glass, mobile phone, notebook and pen but I somehow managed.

The format of the event was Hayley interviewing Virginia about her book and chatting a little about her own too – like they were two authors hanging out.  It was very informal between the pair.  It made the event very personal as they told us about their books and what inspired them to write these stories.

Afterwards, we got to mingle and I had a wonderful inspiring chat with Virginia.

More about Hayley and her new book “Being a girl”.

Hayley Long - Author profile.png

Hayley was inspired to write a book that gives teen girls advice on how to survive puberty, however, there are lots of useful tips that would benefit women of all ages.  She describes her book at ‘How to make life easier’.

Hayley showed us some pages from her book with illustrations by Gemma Correll (famous for Pugs, not Thugs) and that some text is small like a whisper and some text is big and loud.  It looks like a fun book by about an awkward subject.

I was delighted to hear that Hayley is a local girl and went to school here.  It is really inspiring to hear that someone with similar roots made it and that it is possible.

Writing about such a personal topic was quite scary to publish as she wasn’t sure what reaction she would get.  Of all the complaints she envisioned, she had not anticipated people would complain about a tampon on the cover.

I didn’t buy her book today but if it is still around when my little girl is starting high school it sounds like the kind of empowering book I would want her to read.  She has also written other stories that are based around the Suffolk area that sound really good.  

More about Virginia and her new book “Who Runs The World”.

Virginia Bergin - Author profile.png

Virginia is a very passionate woman who talked about how much the world has changed in the past 100 years for women, like being able to vote and how she feels there is still more to be achieved. She discussed the recent equal pay success but that she thinks the next step is to change the culture and is supportive of the ‘me too’ movement.  It’s not just about changing the law but about changing the way we think towards each other about what is right and wrong.

The idea for this book was sparked whilst chatting to someone studying Tess of the d’Urbervilles at school.  She has also studied this book 30 years ago.  I’ve never read the book so I had to try to follow what it was about by what she was saying but it sounds as if the main character is repressed by a man and although she liked it in school she now looks back and sees how wrong it is.  

Virginia’s imagination then began exploring the idea of a world where women were in control and how this comes about.  She didn’t want to simply switch society over, she wanted to create something new.  Then she came up with the idea of a virus that only affects those with the Y chromosome.

Never wrong a writer (1).png

Killing off all the men made me giggle.  It made me think about a warning I read once about why you should never piss off a writer.  I couldn’t find the quote online so I made my own (see image above) which captures the gist of it. Virginia doesn’t want men to die but this quote makes me feel there are few men that may have made her virus deserving list.

Virginia is very animated when she speaks, especially doing typing hands when talking about writing.  It made her a very likeable person to listen to.  She told us about how difficult writing this novel was as she kept worrying about what people would think and if she has portrayed women without men’s influence in their life correctly.

She questions how gender is portrayed and spoke about how strong women are always made out to be masculine and asks why this is. Why can’t women be allowed to be strong and still accepted as a woman?

Virginia likes to make people think “How do you want the world to be different” and is often impressed at school visits how much the children are aware of what is wrong with the world and how they want to change it.

She recommended reading The Power by Naomi Alderman.

Mingling afterwards

After the interview there was time for us to eat some more food, buy the books and chat to the authors.

I waited patiently and then had a lovely chat with Virginia.  I asked her about whether people had judged her for writing SciFi.  Most people I know, judge me for writing fantasy.  She was very encouraging about writing what you love and never giving up.

I asked her about how long it took her to find the right agent.  She told me that a few years ago she had been writing scripts and had an agent but when she wrote The Rain she found a publisher quickly and was picked up by an agent too.  She told me never to take rejections personally and to keep trying. She also pointed out that self publishing has come a long way and especially for Sci-Fi and Fantasy it can really expand the market for writers.

She encouraged me to find local writers groups as these can be really useful to critique your work.  Another lady overheard us talking and introduced herself.  She does a leisure learning course at a local college on Creative Writing and encouraged me to come along and meet the other students who often form their own group once the course is complete.

I bought Who Runs The World and Virginia signed it and wrote a nice message to me inside to encourage me to never give up.

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