Following the narrator’s learning curve is a consistently gripping experience, and the manner in which she maps her world is creatively weaved through both language and a suspenseful plot – a continually surprising trajectory that starts when she leaves the cage. However, while the idealization of men serves the purpose of awakening the narrator to her own power, it is a pity that the women who do enter into relationships with each other are only described as doing so in a default reaction to a lack of men.
"One Booker shortlist later, Galley Beggar were proved correct. Ellmann’s novel isn’t perfect, and it may not take the prize, but in a world where Ian McEwan is still at large, something introspective and richly painted is a tonic for us all...."
— The Daily Telegraph
4.25 out of 5
Jacqueline Harpman’s I Who Have Never Known Men is a novel haunted by absences and loss. It is never explained how the women came to be in the cage and we are left none the wiser as to who’s responsible for their imprisonment, or why or for what purpose they are being held. The strange confusion of the barren world Jacqueline Harpman creates in this eerily evocative novel is also all the more acute because the narrator is in a state of ignorance.