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text 2019-12-27 06:16
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

After reading The Handmaid's Tale, I can perceive any reason why this tragic exemplary has established such a connection on such a significant number of. This is a book that unquestionably hangs with you, frequenting your musings, long after you finish the book. It is provocative and frightening.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-11-29 16:36
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
The Testaments - Margaret Atwood

The long sought-for sequel, set about 15 years later, to the brilliant "Handmaid's Tale"...

 

... and I'm not sure we actually needed it.

 

Gilead has fallen - and how that came to be is told from 3 points of view: Aunt Lydia, Agnes/Hannah who grows up in Gilead and Daisy/Nicole who learns of her origins after her adoptive parents are killed and is sent to Gilead on a mission for mayday.

 

And while the story that is told is certainly interesting and gripping, there are certain parts that are either repetitive or simply unbelievable (and/or unbelievably naive).

 

The first question is how much of the TV-series "The Handmaid's Tale" is canon. Atwood is part of the series' consulting team, but there are inconsistencies: Lydia's background for example (in season 3 she's a discontent teacher who's sort of disgusted by her own female nature and sexual urges - here, she's a judge till Gilead takes over and she's faced with the choice to either submit or be killed), how Nic(h)ole's name's written, the way Hannah doesn't remember her mother at all (she wasn't so young as to not remember meeting her in season 2)...

 

Anyway, the book taken for itself, Lydia keeps meticulous records of everything that goes on in Gilead and is sort of the person who sets everything in motion once Daisy is finally found. It's she who built the whole aunt-sphere in the first place, she who has dirt on everyone, she who arranges marriages, she who admits girls as aunt-supplicants. Of course, the details almost mentionned in passing are as gruesome as ever: commanders killing their wives, pedophilia, arranged child-marriages, murders, perjury... all just to have all the pieces in their places to finally be able to overthrow this corrupt system.

 

To be honest, once I decided to keep books and TV-series apart, Lydia's story became more relatable. I can distantly see that she doesn't buy completely into the idea of Gilead but sort of positioned herself to be able to act later on when opportunity would present itself. This doesn't make her acts any more palatable or excusable, not at all. But I can see her path as one option out of the pitiful collection she had when Gilead took over.

 

That Hannah and Nicole would serve as the messengers to the final destruction... seems more convenient name-dropping than true plot-driven necessity. Especially the fact that mayday chooses Nicole who just learned of her true origins, learned about Gilead at school or through the refugee work of her adoptive parents... in short, is absolutely not trained to fit in at all in a misogynistic system, making the whole mission sort of a hail-Mary adventure... and then both sisters meeting... it feels contrived and scratches the edge of credibility or cliché. Why would Lydia's meticulous plans rely on such an untested girl? Moreover, using her and simultaneously implying that June eventually escaped and has worked for Mayday raises the question of why she never approached her daughter. Hannah, on the other hand, could have been substituted by any other Gilead-educated girl. And she remains bland to the end.

 

Overall... it was a good book, yes... but it leaves more questions than it answers... questions that didn't need to be raised, not even in the hype over the TV-series.

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review 2019-11-09 21:41
The Testaments - Margaret Atwood
The Testaments - Margaret Atwood

At this point I have written two different reviews for this book and I just can't summon the energy to start over yet again.

 

The Handmaid's Tale is amazing and horrifying, even as a reread after thirty years.

 

The Testaments is also amazing and horrifying, but where the first was a cautionary tale the second is the product of a different perspective. There is agency and volition about some of the ways women of different ages, classes, and circumstances can find to rebel against an oppressive regime.

 

The Testaments is a rallying cry, and really, just what I needed this year.

 

Library copy

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text 2019-10-31 15:11
October Wrap Up
A Halloween Tale - Austin Crawley
Terror on the Tundra - J. Esker Miller
The Widow of Pale Harbour - Hester Fox
Mistletoe - Alison Littlewood
Surviving The Evacuation, Book 2: Wasteland - Frank Tayell
Thor - Wayne Smith
Reaper Man - Terry Pratchett
I Am Legend - Richard Matheson
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

So, 9 books finished this month. Not enough for a blackout, but not bad for me.

 

Stand outs were:

A Halloween Tale by Austin Crawley

Terror on the Tundra by J. Esker Millar

Wasteland by Frank Tayell

 

Honorable mention to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.

 

I didn't hate any of this month's reads, so yay!

 

I now have a few Netgalley books to catch up and a gazillion samples I've been ignoring, so that's November sewn up.

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review 2019-10-31 14:49
The Handmaids Tale
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

by Margaret Atwood

 

My first impression of this book was that it reminded me of Anne Frank's diary, writing in journal form about an oppressive situation in which the person writing must survive. Considering it was first released in 1985, the present tense writing that continued caught me off guard. It was unusual before the self-pub explosion in 2010.

 

The tale shows a future society where the freedoms we take for granted have been removed and women in particular are assigned roles and expected to conform to them, including providing babies for couples in more privileged positions but unable to produce their own. Citizens spy on each other and dissention makes people disappear.

 

We are never given the main character's real name because women are referred to by their captain's name; Offred, Ofwarren, etc. She has flashbacks to how life was 'before' that identify this as a society that took over what we would recognise as modern Western life. She misses a lover whose fate she does not know and a child they had together who was taken from her. There is occasional mention of a war, but details are slow to be revealed.

 

I found the story continually depressing. Obviously the whole point is that no one would want to live in such an oppressive world and it was interesting to see how some women managed to adapt, though many didn't. The change is still first generation and those in charge insist the next generation will find the new society perfectly natural, as they've never known anything else.

 

I saw some parallels with American black slavery in that children were taken away from parents with no sympathy for the mother's sense of loss. Also in that deviating from what was considered accepted behaviour resulted in physical punishment or even death.

 

What I found most interesting is that the men weren't enjoying the restrictions on themselves either. Human nature was never meant to be regimented.

 

I found the ending... tedious. An attempt by the author to be clever that fell flat and some essential unanswered questions. I'm glad I've read this now, but even more glad that I don't have to read it again.

 

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