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Found 15 results

  1. A true story is at the heart of this work of fiction. The central figure, Grace Marks, was one of the most notorious Canadian women of the 1840s, having been convicted of murder at the age of sixteen. The Kinnear-Montgomery murders took place in 1842, the sensational details of which were reported not only in Canada but in the United States and Britain. Much of what we learn about Grace is from her recollections during the sessions with a Dr Jordan who is trying to understand what really happened by listening to her and assessing her conscious and unconscious mind. Easier said than done. Five hundred pages later and we're left to make up our own minds about her guilt or otherwise. Personally I think she was as guilty as hell. But Atwood doesn't make it easy for us of course. Whereas Grace has a minute recollection of details of every item of laundry that she ever washed, and how to deal with stains, and how to get whites really white, for instance, (she worked as a servant on arriving in Canada from Ireland) she somehow can't remember much about the murders. "What should I tell him, when he comes back?...I could pick out this or that for him, some bits...I could say this". In such a way Margaret Atwood alerts us to Grace's unreliability. Grace can put on an act, no doubt about it. The novel ends in a slightly surprising way. For long periods I was totally enmeshed in the book but, as quite frequently happens these days, found the last few chapters a bit of a drag. But a four star all said and done.
  2. Prior to this, the only Atwood novel I'd read was her early "Bodily Harm", which I listened to on audiobook and left me rather nonplussed. However, I wanted to try one of her dystopian novels, a genre of which I guess I'm a fan given that several of my favourite recent reads such as Michel Faber's "Under The Skin" and Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", plus works by favourite authors like Philip K. Dick, George Orwell and J. G. Ballard, could be said to fall into this category. "Oryx and Crake", as an introduction to this side of Atwood's work, did not disappoint. It is narrated by Snowman, apparently the world's last homo sapien and guardian of the Children of Crake, a new form of humanity. Snowman was once called Jimmy and his life is revealed to us in flashback. His best friend is Glenn, known as Crake, a Machiavellian scientific genius whose genetic experiments in the Paradise compound aim to stamp out what to him seem to be humanity's flaws. Oryx's role is more minor. Apart from being a love interest for both men, who first encounter her as an underage girl on an explicit website, and then becoming involved with the results of Crake's experiments, the novel's focus is very much on Snowman/Jimmy and Crake, their relationships and their paths in life rather than Oryx. However, I guess the novel's title reflects their two very different experiences of this future world - where Oryx encounters all its horrors and is numb to them, Crake is its privileged, pampered elite. The novel seemed to have many of the modern world's ills in its sights - mega corporations as represented by the compounds, genetic engineering, global warming, the desensitising nature of pornography and computer games - with the risk that the result could have been quite scattergun, so it is a credit to the author that she could fuse her varied themes into a coherent whole and that doesn't spend too much time on exposition and rant. By filtering the narrative through Snowman's voice, the novel had a pleasingly cynical edge to it, which I rather liked too. I have "The Handmaid's Tale" on the pile but might try something else for my next Atwood. As I say, I generally like this sort of book, but if I enjoy something else of hers that's quite different I could become a serious devotee.
  3. The much anticipated and longed for sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. Set more than 15 years after The Handmaid's Tale there are signs that the Gilead Regime is rotting from the inside. There are three main characters, all women (of course) with Aunt Lydia still in charge. Naturally, Aunt Lydia is dictating, to a certain extent, the events but she is portrayed as a lot smarter than the average dictator. Insofaras she knows that Gilead is about to fall and, although she is taken by surprise occasionally seems to know exactly what to do to rectify the situation. This is as good as the press says it is. Highly recommended.
  4. Firstly, I don't know if I'm posting this in the right place, should it go here on the Sci-Fi section? This was an option on a book group read that didn't win but I decided to read it anyway after reading people enthusing about it on another website. It really interests me to see these Cold War paranoia Sci-Fi books, this and The Crysalids, I wonder why both of them see American society turning into a religiously fundamentalist regime? I'm only half way through the book, so far also in comparison to The Crysalids its interesting to see something which portrays the generation directly involved in the transition between modern society and a post-bomb/disaster one, in some ways it makes it easier to tell myself this couldn't possibly happen because how could we let it? On the other hand, there are parts of it I can really relate to, my 'be like a pebble' mantra sounds a bit sinister now...and its not that farfetched that we could see some huge social shift in society as a result of climate change and terrorism...again the same sort of themes The Crysalids raised. The style is quite hard work though, its so fractured it can be infuriating! OK, I'm going to stop there as my shoulder is hurting from being on the computer all day at work!
  5. After being told off nicely but vociferously by jfp for putting Margaret Atwood in the same sentance as Victoria Hislop I decided it was really time to break my self-imposed embargo on Margaret Atwood and read another of her books. From the book blurb "Zenia is beautiful, smart and greedy, by turns manipulative and vulnerable, needy and ruthless; a man's dream and a woman's nightmare. She is also dead. Just to make sure Tony, Roz and Charis are there for the funeral. But five years on, as the three women share an indulgent, sisterly lunch, the unthinkable happens; 'with waves of ill will flowing out of her like cosmic radiation', Zenia is back. " I galloped through the first half of the book, loving it, loving her writing then slowed right down and found the second half a slightly plodding read. I think it's for two reasons, firstly and not the most important is that Atwood seems to me to be in love with her own voice and frankly for my taste the book is too long, with too many finely crafted descriptive passages etc. The second is that I stopped believing in the story once it got to Roz. I really found it impossible to believe that an intelligent woman like that, who knew what damage Zenia could do, who knew the women Zenia had done it to, who knew how untruthful Zenia was could let Zenia into her life like that, let alone give her a job. There were too many co-incidences such as Zenia just happening to walk into Toxique when the three friends were having lunch, too many similarities in the ways Tony, Roz and Charis were brought up, and the last scene between Roz and Zenia simply seemed unbelievable - why one earth would Roz accept Zenia's word like that? I woud love to know what really happened to Zenia though. All in all a slightly disappointing read.
  6. I'm about a third of the way through The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I found it on a church bookstall for 20p and as the Handmaid's Tale had been in the study list for my degree I bought it. It has *some* similarities in style and subject to the Handmaid's Tale but if you didn't know they were written by the same person you probably wouldn't notice. I wouldn't anyway. To be honest, I am not sure what I'm making of it so far. It apparently won the Booker Prize and I usually find Booker prize winners odd reads. Maybe that's just me? I'm not really 'into' it yet and I can't really see me getting into it properly though it may surprise me. I am posting here not because I have anything in particular to say about it but to ask if any of you had read it and if so what you made of it. I have a sneaking suspicion it's greatness is eluding me. And *now* I can't work out if that apostrophe is right...it's a bad day!
  7. MADDADDAM is the last in the Oryx and Crake trilogy. It is set during the year following the “waterless flood”, the disease engineered by Crake to wipe out humanity. The flood left behind isolated human groups and individuals that begin to find each other. Not all of them are as ‘good’ as the few surviving God’s Gardeners. The ‘ungood’ are a trio of ‘Painballers’ - killer criminals who survived the ultimate penalty of the justice system. The most important group of survivors are the Crakers, the humanlike beings engineered by Crake to replace the human race. Unfortunately, the Crakers are ill-equipped to handle evil, having been created without any understanding of wrongness and without fear. They are - at least for now - naked, vegetarian, having an unusual mating habit, a natural insect repellent, and a unique vocal structure that allows them to purr (for healing purposes) and to sing. They can also speak. This novel gathers together all the separate threads from ‘Oryx and Crake’ and ‘The Year of the Flood’. The technique for this is storytelling, as in the stories told by Toby, a God’s Gardener, to the Crakers, after an incident that draws the two groups together for mutual support. As they learn to cooperate in a rapidly disintegrating environment, they soon realise that they cannot continue much longer without assistance. The Painballers are an approaching threat. With the telepathic, interpretive skills of the Crakers, Pigoons (a species created by splicing human intelligence into pigs brains) become a cooperating partner. The storytelling of Toby (a middle-aged woman) becomes less prominent as the action intervenes. As a technique it could have been boring but Atwood writes it in a unique way, so effective that from it we learn a great deal about the Crakers without them having to utter a word. An example of the beginning of a Toby story: MaddAddam is a fitting finale to this trilogy. Atwood’s imagination remains at peak level to the conclusion. Her similes continue to astound. Her sense of colour continues to enhance our imagination. Her humour and wit remain unabated. Her predictions of what is to come - what is almost upon us - are as horrifyingly plausible as ever.
  8. This is a sequal to Oryx and Crake, although it is mostly set concurrent to the events of Oryx and Crake. I think I might have to go back and read Oryx and Crake again in light of this book. I think I enjoyed it even more than Oryx and Crake, it was really, really interesting. The story follows 2 members of a sort of cult called 'The Gardeners', who believe 'the end of nigh' because humankind has been treating nature so badly and causing extinctions left,right and centre. You get glimpses of the events of Oryx and Crake (which is why I want to read it again, my memory of some of it is a bit hazy, I have a feeling I'll have more 'ahhh' moments rereading it!). I really liked that she actually ties up some lose threads, the characters in this novel are...more mentally together than the Snowman...although no one really knows the whole picture... The best thing about reading this is that clearly Atwood has plotted all of this out, both novels, she completely knows the dystopian world she's created, and you start to kind of believe you could actually go out for a happicuppa coffee and some chickienobs!! (compared to, say Cormac McCarthy's The Road, who knows if even he really knows what has happened or what is going on in the rest of the world he's imagining)
  9. I have been reading this book over the last couple of weeks while away on holiday which I now suspect was a mistake. Although a short book it is a far from simple read and I now feel needs to be read with little or no distractions not in the odd bit here and there as I did. Like all Margaret Atwood books that I have read so far the content of the book was very different from others written by the same author. However other aspects of the book were much the same. Margaret Atwood books all seem to be written in layers and this one was no exception. As the story unfolds the reader begins to feel as if nothing is as it seems. The problem I found with this book was that there were just so many layers that I got somewhat lost. The beginning of the book seems straight forward enough, a young woman returns to the remote island of her childhood with her lover and two friends when her father is reported missing. That I understood. However it is not long before the reader begins to see cracks in the relationships of both couples and to understand that the young womans past has not been straight forward either. About half way through the book I began to feel as if I was getting a bit of a grip on the story. It appears that the young woman had tried to block a previous experience from her mind. As her stay upon the island continues more and more of the real event begins to return to her and the reader can see her trying to finally come to terms with what has happened. However, this is so muddled up with the present and the relationships between the four and her past life on the island with her parents and older brother that I soon felt as if I was losing my way again. So much so that by the end of the book I simply had no idea what I was supposed to be gaining from the book. I am sure that this is a brilliant book just that I read it at the wrong time. I could do with somebody explaining it all to me. I would like to say that I will give it another go when I have a clearer mind but if I am honest I know that this will not happen. Not a book I enjoyed.
  10. Hey Guys! It's my first topic so I'm sorry if it's in the wrong place but I am about to go into my final year of my A Levels and I have a coursework component to plan for and complete before November. I have to pick a novel/play to compare to another novel/play based around a theme, my tutor said it would be best to pick four possible comparisons (so two sets of novels/plays). So far I only have one set: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and The Island Of Dr Moreau by H.G Wells. I am planning to compare these two novels based on the theme of self-induced isolation. Can any of you guys help me pick a novel/play that would be good to compare to Margaret Atwood's Oryx And Crake? I have just finished reading it and I loved it but I am at a loss as to what I could compare it too, if you guys could also give me ideas on what themes I could write about in my coursework that would be greatly appreciated!
  11. I started this book a few days ago having purchased it on the advice of another reader, BB I think it was you. I am about half way through and am beginning to love Margaret Atwood more and more. I have read four other books by this author all of which have been very different story wise from one another and again this book is no exception. The similarities are the writing, brilliant in all cases, and the quirky female characters. You cannot help but feel that Margaret Atwood understands the female psyche in all it's forms and is not afraid to portray it. I do sometimes feel that she is having a good laugh at some of us. The Edible Woman is set in the sixties and describes the life of Marion, a young graduate in her late twenties. Marion has a very strong minded room mate called Ainsley, a very proper fiance called Peter and a married friend called Clara about to give birth to her third child. Life for Marion seems to be progressing in much the way that she had expected so why does she not feel happier about it?! At various times Marion sits and daydreams making up more and more far fetched scenarios and imagining how she would behave. I cannot help but think of the TV programe Ally McBeal which RG and I watched a number of years ago and wonder if the idea for Ally's daydreams came from this book! I loved the daydream scenes in the TV programe as I do in this book. Like many Atwood books The Edible Woman is slightly 'off the wall'. Atwood seems to pick a common behaviour pattern or character flaw and exagerate it in her characters. Her characters are never boring although sometimes they are annoying and in the case of Zenia in The Robber Bride far from likable. Marion is certainly likable enough although at the beginning of the book at least she is slightly dull. This I think is the point used to highlight the fact that the lives of most women at the time the book was set were dull, their ambitions nothing much more than the desire to marry and set up a comfortable home. Marion thinks that this is what she desires until the oppotunity comes along. She then spends the majority of her time rebelling against her desired future. The book is wittily written and I find myself reading it with a smile on my face. Were all young women really that dull in the sixties?
  12. Bodily Harm by Margaret Atwood is a somewhat difficult book for me to review because it is hard for me to separate my experience of reading it from the quality of the book itself. This was an uncomfortable read for me, with its slowly building, but everpresent, sense of menace and vulnerability. Ronnie is a lifestyle and fashion journalist, a skimmer of surfaces, who has recently come face to face with her own mortality in the form of breast cancer, resulting in a partial mastectomy. Then her boyfriend moves out, due to a combination of Rennie pushing him away and his own distaste for her disfigured breast and the flavor of death her cancer has wrought. Then a break in to her unoccupied apartment is foiled by alert neighbors. But the probable assailant leaves behind a scary length of rope, which destroys the few remaining shreds of her security. Desiring escape from all of these complications to her life Rennie coerces her editor into assigning her a travel piece about a recently independent Caribbean nation. But it's not all fun-in-the-sun in St. Antoine, and nobody she encounters is quite what they seem, as the days lead up to an election wherein the corrupt ruling bodies are at risk of displacement. The prose is excellent, as usual for Atwood. There is even humor, of the gallows, wisecracking type. The structure is more disjointed than seemed necessary, and at times really disrupted the flow of the book. But it was never extremely confusing. The basic message of the book was that safety and security are an illusion, that people are inherently selfish and dishonest, and that even if you muddle through those minefields, your own body will betray you. All of which is undoubtedly true. But it's not the whole story. There was misery and satisfaction but no joy in this book, and lust and lust for power but no love. Yet isn't that what makes this duality that we live in bearable, that the pendulum must swing back to the other side? So while this was a well written and very believable novel I simply cannot recommend something that teaches that despair, rather than hope, is the proper attitude to life. And this is counter to what I've felt upon finishing Atwood's other novels, which, for all their bleakness, still called upon us to search for the color and the light in the world. 4stars for hitting her mark, 2stars for what the mark was, averages out to 3stars.
  13. Charmaine and Stan are living in the near future, a time when the economy has collapsed across the American Midwest, people are jobless, broke and picking over the leftovers of a bygone age. Those who fled in time to the west coast were lucky; those who didn’t face a bleak future. So, when Charmaine and Stan are offered a chance to live in a gated, self-sufficient community that still enjoys plentiful food, security and employment, what’s not to like? Somewhat oddly, at any given time half the population of the commune lives in prison whilst the other half have houses, scooters and jobs – but at the end of each month everyone switches round. And since the prisoners are just regular people, it’s not much of a hardship… The Heart Goes Last is not an exercise in realism. The plot has so many holes it could double as a fishing net. But the novel has a style and panache that carries it through the various improbabilities and impossibilities. The narrative style is simple, clear and intriguing; the reader wants to know what’s going on, how Stan and Charmaine are going to get out of the various inevitable tight spots, how this alternative world works. It’s become a bit of a pejorative term, but this is a page turner. As the story moves forward, it gets quite adult in its themes. We have passion, adultery, blackmail and… er… robots. Despite the broken world economy, it seems there is an insatiable demand for comfort robots. There are also some decidedly dodgy surgical procedures. And there are rules, surveillance, punishments, spies and snitches. Like so many of these dystopian novels, we get a whistle stop tour of the community with an access-all-areas pass, we get the reveal of the awful truth, and we get the escape and rescue scene. In terms of recent novels, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Flowertown (SG Redling), The Circle (Dave Eggers) and The Unit (Ninni Holmqvist) – but going further back and into the world of cinema, it could almost be Logan’s Run. Plus dodgy economics. We’re not finding radical new insights into our society, we’re not talking some kind of giant allegory although there are themes, perhaps, of power and control. It is a bit of fun, though. ****0
  14. Having thoroughly enjoyed Alias Grace, which I picked up in a charity shop recently, I next decided to read Cat's Eye as I had seen it mentioned frequently in the "favourite reads" thread. Granted, it is very well written, but I found it a deeply disturbing read- I had to finish it, but I didn't enjoy reading it. I'm not sure that I was supposed to (?) It just made me feel so depressed at the thought of my own existence, I had to go straight for one of Malcolm Pryce's Aberystwyth novels! What does this mean? I've not experienced anything like this before.
  15. Rescued Thread katrina 25th June 2006 01:13 PM The Penelopiad ~ Atwood Just finished this slim volume of Atwood's. The book is one of a collection of novels being written retelling the myths. Definately an enchanting read, Atwood tells the tale of Penelope, Odysseus' wife from Penelope's view point. We also hear the thoughts of the 12 maids told in poetic style interspersed between Penelope's prose. Penelope provides a strong narrative giving her opinion on the events surrounding her marriage. A good read that can be finished easily in one sitting LesleyMP 24th August 2006 02:29 PM I have just read the introductory book in this series 'A Short History of Myth' by Karen Armstrong (very good indeed) and now I am going to give 'The Penelopiad' a go. Will post my thoughts up here when I have finished it. Stewart 24th August 2006 02:35 PM I don't like the books in this series at all. Weight by Jeanette Winterson was unwholesome and then this, The Penelopiad, from an author that I find undigestable. A guy thing, perhaps. I can't even remember The Penelopiad and I only read it last month. Royal Rother 24th August 2006 04:51 PM I thought this might be a thread about Sheila's Wheels. megustaleer 24th August 2006 06:23 PM Do you mean the insurance, or the song on this album? BEWARE: Not suitable for playing at work, nor in the hearing of women drivers!
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