Threaded with engaging detail on class, and the pull between traditional ideas about how women should live and the drive for female independence from men, Clare O’Dea’s Voting Day is an absorbing, read-in-one-sitting novella. Told from the perspectives of four women in 1959, on the day Swiss men voted against giving women the right to vote, the author reveals the differences between women’s lives and attitudes, and also what unites them. It’s a delicate, illuminating and immediately engaging work, told with elegance and insight as the women’s lives intersect on this decisive day. First we meet Vreni, a hardworking farmer’s wife who’s heading from the countryside for an operation in Bern, but not before she’s prepared her household for her absence. In Bern, Vreni meets Margrit, her daughter. With Margrit trying to forge an independent life, their time together reveals the pull between the old and the new, country and town, and intergenerational conflicts, but also the persistence of male control over women no matter what their age or location. The fact that it’s Vreni who tackles her daughter’s predicament also sheds light on the way assumptions about people can blind us from seeing the truth. While outwardly confident, in reality Margrit feels like she’s in a “thorny, overgrown forest from the most frightening fairy tales…lost and helpless”, while her apparently old-fashioned, downtrodden mother asserts herself with glorious verve. At the hospital we switch to Esther’s narrative. She’s a cleaner with connections to Verni and Margrit, a young mother who’s been abandoned by her husband and left in dire straits. In turn, hospital administrator Beatrice has been campaigning for the “yes” vote and is determined to help Esther. The four characters, and the connections between them, embody and amplify varied realities of women’s lives at this time — still restricted by men clinging onto power over public and private life, but straining towards a new era of greater equality.