*** (out of 4)
(NOTE: This review originally appeared here.)
Pop quiz: which Western nation was the last to grant suffrage to women? You might be inclined to guess the U.S. (since, after all, it took our ancestors way too long to get the 19th Amendment written up) or a socially-conservative country like Italy. But the correct answer is actually Switzerland – the supposedly progressive paradise that regularly ranks near the top of just about every quality-of-life ranking out there. Swiss women, it turns out, only gained suffrage after a 1971 referendum on the subject came out in their favor; in some cantons, moreover, they weren’t allowed to fully exercise this privilege until after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The fact that a “developed” nation took so long to undertake such a basic reform is an anomaly just begging for an explanation. And in The Divine Order, Petra Volpe tries to provide one through the fictional (but based on reality) story of Nora (Marie Leuenberger), a woman who undergoes a political and emotional awakening in the lead-up to the 1971 vote.