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Cathy

The Handmaid's Tale

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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!

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Mmmm - not sure if it counts as Sci-Fi or not :confused: This was the first Margaret Atwood novel I read, and I was certainly surprised to read Cat's Eyes, later on, and find it was set in modern day Canada, with never a trace of any strange new society or anything...

 

In some ways I think I read it when I was too young to properly appreciate it. The same goes for 1984 and Animal Farm. I loved the drama and tension and understanding the new social structures they described - but it never crossed my mind that they were in anyway intended to be prophetic warnings or comments on contemporary political trends. That came as a complete revelation to me, several years after first reading them :rolleyes:

 

And, er, what does, "Be like a pebble" mean????

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How's this for prophetic:

"It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the President and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time"

and

"That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn't even any rioting in the streets. People stayed at home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn't even even an enemy you could put your finger on"

 

Now I know neither of these thing has happened exactly that way, but it is quite resonant with the current climate with terrorist groups you can't pin down, natural disasters that might change politics, maybe not that dramatically. 24 hour television, I can just imagine that, something really drastic and important happens and we all stay at home glued to BBC News 24... And all this 'anti-terror' legislation which feels so Big Brother-ish.

 

When all the bank accounts marked 'F' were terminated, that gave me such a chill.

 

What do you think of what the Commander says about men having felt they had no identity as men any more as women could do everything they did? I've been trying to think about that and figure out what it is makes men men! All the feminist theories are about women as being defined as 'other' and in relation to men, but this flips it on its head...interesting

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Rest of the thread from google cache

 

Flingo 6th February 2006 01:00 PM

 

I have just reread this, ahead of a Book Group meeting this evening. I first read it around 2000-early 2001.

 

I was amazed at how little I remembered, and in fact parts I thought I had remembered didn't appear in it at all. I had managed to twist whole sections, so that they were very much dumbed down in my memory.

 

I was quite startled when I read some of the comments about "Islamic Fundamentalists" as quoted by Cathy above. These are things that I think are more likely to stay with me now, at least more than last time I read it, especially in light of 9/11, the Paris riots and the current Cartoon demonstrations.

 

I was also shocked and amazed when I realised it was first published in 1985 - over 20 years later and the situations that caused the overthrow of Congress in the book are still so similar to current situations and tensions.

 

I fully agree with Cathy - if something like this were to happen, we would all sit at home and watch the news coverage - I know that is what happened when the Twin Towers came down, and again how I felt with the London Bombings last July.

 

Atwood conveys the narrators shock and surprise at the situation around her beautifully - when the women at her work are all fired, she just sits and stares at the wall, not even bothering to turn on the TV.

 

I hope this is just Science Fiction, and nothing more than that!

 

 

 

Starry 6th February 2006 01:59 PM

 

I read this a couple of years ago and haven't retained all that much, though the bank accounts part does stick out in my memory as do the colour-coded clothes and epilogue.

What do you think of what the Commander says about men having felt they had no identity as men any more as women could do everything they did? I've been trying to think about that and figure out what it is makes men men!

 

The men's groups you see springing up all over the place whining about how they are discriminated against and thinking they have no identity makes me so mad. How about trying to find out what it is to be human rather than what it is to be male or female. The world has changed, get over it, move on. :mad:

 

Like Claire this was the first Margaret Atwood book I read and I still prefer her speculative fiction (her words) over her more ordinary novels. There is something compelling and frightening about her vision of the future but whereas Big Brother has made it into our consciousness as a situation we must avoid at all costs, this novel doesn't seem to have made the same impact, though its prophetic nature ought to put us on our guard.

 

 

Claire 6th February 2006 02:56 PM

Like Claire this was the first Margaret Atwood book I read and I still prefer her speculative fiction (her words) over her more ordinary novels.

 

I like that phrase, "speculative fiction". Has she written others, or is this the only one?

 

 

 

Starry 6th February 2006 04:39 PM

 

I like that phrase, "speculative fiction". Has she written others, or is this the only one?

 

Oryx and Crake is also speculative fiction and very good to boot (despite the ending - see endings thread! :D )

 

 

 

Maryrose 13th March 2006 09:00 AM

 

I also read The Handmaid many years ago. I remember thinking then, re the Islamic fanatics, that this was part of the Nostradamus prophecies and I wondered if this was where Attwood got her inspiration.

 

I did not think at the time that the male revolution was religiously based, but I suppose it was in part. Or at least that was the excuse used by the male generals. It seemed to me to be more about the male versus female struggle. The book was certainly a big part of feminism 20 years ago.

 

I always wondered why there was no explanation for the infertility of the ruling class. Was it meant to imply that all the soft living and exposure to the array of chemicals and radiation at that time had bounced back to bite those who had been the greatest users? Those women who were still fertile were portrayed as the "free spirits" of the time. Those who would have had less access to those goods or who spurned them in favour of "the simple life".

 

But yes, it is chillingly prophetic.

 

 

Paul 20th September 2006 03:55 PM

 

This book was on my TBR pile for quite a while - and I still don't know why I left it so long.... this is a great book, so very apt and readable.

 

Its really managed to get me thinking .... and its frightening to see how prophetic she's been....

 

A book to mull over .....

 

 

barblue 20th September 2006 05:48 PM

 

Like many, this was my first Atwood book. At the end I said 'Wow', not to myself but outloud - and there aren't many books I do that with. It was chilling because it was so believable, whilst supposedly being set in the future and a novel anyway.

 

I was so excited by her writing, I felt compelled to read more of her work, including her poetry (though I still have not read everything). I find her poetry very powerful. All very feminist I suppose, but when you consider the times that her words were written, from the early l960s onwards I believe, she mirrored the feminist movement with her work.

 

I have to admit I didn't find Orxy and Crake as enjoyable as Handmaid but I think I need to read that one again. I don't have a favouite, but I think Alias Grace for the way it is constructed, that it is based on some historical fact and, for me, has so many layers of meaning that I can spend hours working out the 'patchwork' Atwood lays before the reader - and still get left not knowing the absolute truth. Wonderful. :)

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I came to this book in a slightly odd manner in that I saw the film of it years ago with Natasha Richardson and Aidan Quinn. I was so intrigued that I added the book to my list but only got round to reading it about two years ago. Like some of you, it was my first Atwood as well.

 

I thought it was interesting how the main character's rights were eroded so gradually, how there was absolutely no way out for her or any of the women. I think if something like this were ever to happen - which hopefully it never will - it would happen very like this. The fact that Atwood's kept her tale so plausible is what makes it so frightening, I think.

 

And...

 

 

The examination of what makes a woman was very interesting, how the commander's wife acted during the ceremonies, as if it was she who was the fertile one and not Offred, really interesting.

 

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This is the first Margaret Atwood novel I have read, its very compelling and a frightening concept. It certainly kept me interested right until the end. One has to say could this really happen,would we sit back and let it?

I shall certainly read more of her novels.

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I read this as part of a university course about ten years ago. I found it chilling but the sort of book I could not put down. I think it was spoiled for me slightly in having read it as part of a course and having to dissect and write about it. I must read it again now memory has faded.

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Have to say that this is one of my least favourite novels. If it wasn't part of the course I was doing at the time I doubt I would have reached the end, never mind re-read any of it. However, it was critically acclaimed I believe so I was curious what other peoples' views were.

 

It's the only Atwood novel I've read, so I don't want to generalise about her attitude, but she seems very bitter about something. From memory there wasn't one male character shown in a positive light, which I found gave a rather strange imbalance to the world she was trying to create. I understand that may be part of the point, but for me it just didn't work.

 

I also found myself getting slightly irritated by what I perceived as her borrowing from George Orwell's 1984, a book I've always greatly regarded. Perhaps once one dystopian society has been written, it is hard to create another without having some links, but for me it just didn't feel like a particularly new idea.

 

The only thing I did side with Atwood on were some of her more satirical views on religious extremism.

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I recently read this & found it to be a chilling yet gripping read. Can't believe I'd forgoten about the bank accounts marked F thing, I think I was more disturbed by the ban on reading/writing/music & the prayer machine!

I definitely got a Taliban-style-rule vibe from the book (the veils, lack of women's rights, the corporal punishments & beheadings...). It was odd to have those thoughts when a lot of the laws were based on (pretty twisted) interpretations of out-of-context Bible verses (like men not being infertile, ever!). When I first started reading, I immediately assumed it was some medieval society, but then a character would mention something modern & it threw me completely!

I read 1984 shortly afterwards & she's definitely borrowed some ideas from Orwell, but I find both to be interesting reads.

I tried to read Cat's Eye when I was 12 or so & couldn't get into it at all, so may have to try it again. I'd also like to read Alias Grace (my sister has it, so will try & borrow it when she's back for Christmas).

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HI

I read The Handmaid's Tale when it was first published and have not re-read it but I really enjoyed reading all of your comments and ideas about the book.

 

One of the recurring themes in Atwood's work is dissociation and cultural ennui

 

She is hard to read and her books are steeped in prophecy and insight as you all know. I'm happy that I was able to read all of your comments. Good job.

 

I remember my feelings as I read the novel: chilled, outraged, cold, very sympathetic to some characters. I don't think this novel is soft sci-fi, rather I'd put it into general fiction despite the background and events.

 

PEACE

GERBAM

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Let me start with two quotations.

 

Here's someone that gave The Handmaid's Tale one star on amazon.co.uk, in a blunt review entitled I don't get it..............:

I feel for Offred because of the situation she finds herself in and it's harsh, but it wasn't enough to make me want to keep turning pages to see if she'd be ok.
And here's Offred, Atwood's first-person narrator in the novel:
There is something subversive about this garden of Serena's, a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamour to be heard, though silently. A Tennyson garden, heavy with scent, languid; the return of the word swoon. Light pours down upon it from the sun, true, but also heat rises, from the flowers themselves, you can feel it: like holding your hand an inch above an arm, a shoulder. It breathes, in the warmth, breathing itself in. To walk through it in these days, of peonies, of pinks and carnations, makes my head swim.
If you "don't get" this passage, then don't read the rest of this, and, above all, don't bother reading The Handmaid's Tale. You almost certainly won't "get" it. Find something where you can devote yourself to wondering whether someone's going to "be ok".

 

Most people seem to know what Atwood's novel is "about", and what a Handmaid, following Biblical precedent, is and does. Which is a shame, because the way the puzzled reader only gradually discovers exactly what is going on is one of the outstanding features of the novel.

 

Basically, as a retrospective chapter, looking back from a vantage-point two hundred years in the future succinctly puts it, Handmaids were:

women recruited for reproductive purposes and allotted to those who both required such services and could lay claim to them through their position in the elite.
But that is a deliberately dispassionate summary. Offred's own story, as it progressively unfolds, is much more than an account of her official functions in a totalitarian state which has come into existence in an unspecified area of the United States (but centring on Boston and Cambridge). It is an account of love lost and remembered (her enforced separation from her husband and small daughter, whose fate she strives to discover), of women's role in society, of strength in adversity.

 

The lines quoted above I chose for their condensation of much of the atmosphere of the novel, Atwood's insistence that the human spirit is indomitable even in the face of unspeakable oppression. Of which there is plenty too, some of it harrowing in the extreme.

 

Comparisons with 1984 have been extremely numerous, but I would claim that The Handmaid's Tale, while owing a clear debt to Orwell's own dystopia, is far superior. Where Orwell's book is first and foremost a novel of ideas, with, let's face it, a rather clunking style, Atwood's work is a meditation on relationships, on differences (and similarities) between men and women, on writing itself. It is a detailed exploration of the workings of the unconscious memory. It also, highly unexpectedly, transmutes into an unconventional love-story.

 

Personally I rate The Handmaid's Tale as one of my favourite three novels of all time (the other two are Middlemarch and To The Lighthouse). Objectively, I consider it to be one of the most important novels of the twentieth century, certainly of the second half.

 

It won't be everyone's cup of tea, I'll admit that. Having spent long weeks teaching it this year, I realised that some of my students were totally fascinated by it, and others clearly didn't "get it", nor did they really want to...

 

It's also very different from most of Atwood's other novels. It's also even better. Which is saying a lot. Because they're all very good, even the first one... :P

 

*****

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Offred's own story, as it progressively unfolds, is much more than an account of her official functions in a totalitarian state which has come into existence in an unspecified area of the United States ... It is an account of love lost and remembered (her enforced separation from her husband and small daughter, whose fate she strives to discover), of women's role in society, of strength in adversity. Atwood's insistence that the human spirit is indomitable even in the face of unspeakable oppression. Of which there is plenty, some of it harrowing in the extreme.

 

Your full summation is very well shaped and intriguing. Would make for a great discussion. And I agree with most of what you culled for yourself and your students. What I think you left out though, is that the upper class women are complicit in using their 'lesser sisters' as machines. [Don't want to be a spoiler] The men don't particularly care, if I remember correctly and forgive me if I am wrong ... I read the book many years ago and did not see the movie.

 

Comparisons with 1984 have been extremely numerous, but I would claim that The Handmaid's Tale, while owing a clear debt to Orwell's own dystopia, is far superior. Where Orwell's book is first and foremost a novel of ideas, with, let's face it, a rather clunking style,

 

This really surprises me. I never saw or made a connection to '1984' beyond both books being speculative fiction ... I don't see any more of a debt to Orwell in HANDMAID'S TALE And again if I remember '1984' was a cautionary tale of horror certainly a meditation on the world in 1948, the time it was published. It is about an entire society being transmographied into zombies as the reader follows the paranoia of one man ... this character proved the rule that if you are paranoid you may have a good reason to be. And by 1948 the world had seen such a world develop into WWII. I didn't take that away from Atwood whose society was formed as a theocracy but '1984' was a dictatorial 'Big Brother.'

 

And yet ... in several interviews ATwood says that "The roots of the book go back to my study of the American Puritans. The society they founded in America was not a democracy as we know it, but a theocracy. In addition, I found myself increasingly alarmed by statements made frequently by religious leaders in the United States; and then a variety of events from around the world could not be ignored, particularly the rising fanaticism of the Iranian monotheocracy. The thing to remember is that there is nothing new about the society depicted in The Handmaid's Tale except the time and place. All of the things I have written about have--as noted in the "Historical Notes" at the end--been done before, more than once."

 

She goes on: "It is an imagined account of what happens when not uncommon pronouncements about women are taken to their logical conclusions. History proves that what we have been in the past we could be again."

 

And I would remind all of us that an out of control faction of "Iranian monotheocracy" she mentions has blown up into the war we face in Iraq and Afghanistan today. Think about the role of women in the countries where they are not 'people' and have no rights or standing ....

 

I was reminded of her early novel: SURFACING, a book I found terrifying when I read it for the first time. That was about a single character and her journey to sanity through her personal rituals and it took place in contemporary society. But I think here we see the seeds of HANDMAID'S TALE taking root in Atwood's mind. I suppose Atwood's themes are strong and consistant in her work and her books are gems, albeit sometimes with sharp edges.

 

[For a complete assessment of Atwood's work and HANDMAID'S TALE go to BOOKS@RANDOM and look her up.

ENJOY

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[quote name=GERBAM

She goes on: "It is an imagined account of what happens when not uncommon pronouncements about women are taken to their logical conclusions. History proves that what we have been in the past we could be again."

I read this book last year and my own interpretation was that Atwood used the analogy of a dystopian future in which the women of Gilead were subjugated by its totalitarian theocracy to highlight what, to a greater or lesser extent, has occurred in patriarchal societies throughout history. By skilfully pushing this analogy to its extremes she demonstrates how Offred learns to cope by overtly accepting the situation whilst relying upon the subversive network of information and support provided by others in the same situation. Offred's weakness and vulnerability are her main strengths allowing her to take advantage of the Commander's double standards and Atwood uses this situation to demonstrate what Vaclav Havel referred to in 1978 as "the power of the powerless". For me this book was simply a reflection of society intensified by the extreme circumstances depicted by Atwood.

 

I found this to be one of the most disturbing and thought-provoking books that I have read in recent years but which, like many great novels, defies categorisation.

 

P.S. For anyone who is interested Margaret Atwood will be appearing at this year's Edinburgh Book Festival on 23 August

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You certainly did a wonderful and articulate piece explaining what Atwood was trying to say in the quote I posted. I agree with your conclusion and certainly agree with Atwood.

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I had already read some of Atwood's works when I came across The Handmaid's Tale. I was shocked to see her as the author as I had seen the film several years ago and never would have guessed it was her work.

 

In saying that, I enjoyed the book fully and found it very deep and thought provoking. I loved the dark humour (which i find in her writings) about the rebel religions, Quaker and Baptists.

 

The link of extreme Islamic movements and the content of this story are very revelant to today's world, however, I'm pretty sure that wasn't Atwood's point. Atwood is a strong feminist and this novel was about how women, when positions of power, even money, are taken from them, still use what gifts and wits they have to gain what they need/want.

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Just read all of this thread and some very interesting comments especially those by jfp, GERBAM and Blythe Spirit.

 

Your comments jfp make me wish I had the time and/or money to start a course of study. Very envious of your pupils.

 

I read the book a few years ago and like the other Atwood books I've read found it compelling and utterly believable. Definitely on my re read pile.

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I read The Handmaids Tale about a year ago whilst consciously seeking out new writers to discover. I took the book with me on a business trip to Stockport - hey someone has to go there - and sat in a rather tired hotel and read most of it in one evening. It was utterley compelling but what I took from it wasn't the islamic fundamentalist stuff or the post apocalyptic visions. It was something far more fundamental than that. Call me simple and maybe its just because I am a man but I thought that the portrayal of the treatment of women was chilling as was the portrayal of women's treatment of themselves. It's not science fiction, it's allegory and that makes it all the more powerful. We are not talking about the function of the handmaids and all the rest of it, we are talking here of the way in which society ( and I can only speak with reference to what might be called western society) has in the past, can ,does and if we don't change it, will continue to view and treat women. The rest is almost scenery.

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I am about a third of the way through this book so thought I would revive the old thread. I have not read the previous posts yet as I did not want to spoil anything. This book is like nothing I have ever read before and although grim reading it is strangely compelling. The more I read of it the more frightening it becomes and the more I wonder at the imagination from which it comes. As a reviewer has said on the back cover of the book "I only hope it's not prophetic".

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This is certainly a story that builds. Information regarding the past and the way in which The Handmaid lives now are slowly being reveiled. With each revelation my horror increases but as Barblue has stated the the story is believable. I am not sure what I expected from this book and at the beginning I did wonder if I would be able to stick with it but now I do not want to put it down.

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I have found this a truly chilling read. I knew very little about the the author or even the novel itself before reading so had no pre-conceived ideas. The story unfolds very slowly as The Handmaid describes her present life and begins to look back from time to time to her previous life. It slowly emerges that the present dystopian society in which The Handmaid lives is a fairly new society and that she grew up and spent her early adulthood living in todays world. For me this was one of the most chilling aspects of the book - the fact that the society described developed from our own world in a very short time. It made it all frightening believable.

 

Having read the novel and comments on previous posts it would seem that Margaret Atwood was a renowned feminist. I did not know this before reading the book so read it with an open mind. However the book is about much more than the simple suppression of women by men, there is a real feel of the religous cult about the book and it portrays many of the characters as religous fanatics with complete belief in the cult/regime. It has to be remembered that the book was written thirty years ago, long before 9/11, the July bombings here or the appearance of books like "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini which graphicly describes women being totally ruled by men. The main characters in this book were not allowed out without being veiled, were governed by their fathers and then husband and if they transgressed in any way were likely to be stoned. In some ways The Handmaid's Tale reflects a world developed from that portrayed in the Khaled Hosseini novel. Horribly real.

 

Some aspects of the book seem to have been drawn from previous religous beliefs and as well as a feeling of a possible future world there is also a feeling of going backwards to less enlightened societies. For me this has been a really surprising read and I cannot believe that I was put off reading it for so long. It is a book which will stay with me for some time I suspect.

Edited by cherrypie

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Loved your review CP.  I absolutely love Margaret Atwood's work, both her novels and her poetry.  Handmaids Tale was my first Atwood book.  I probably mentioned earlier in this thread about my journey through Atwood's work, but from reading that book I was lucky enough to study a lot more of her work at my local University (I took my degree very late in life!) under the guidance of an American female lecturer. 

 

You are right, Atwood is a very firm feminist.  After Handmaids Tale I went on to read The Edible Woman.  This was written in the 60s at the beginning of her career.  Being about the same age as Atwood, I could empathise totally with the views, conditions, feelings and attitudes of the women at that time.  For me it was liberating to finally know that what I felt then was not just me alone being bolshie about the way women were treated as a minority gender.

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The Handmaid's Tale was the first Atwood book for me too although I am sure that I will read more, I have added two to my books to buy list.

 

One of my managers at work is a big reader and has often lent books to me in the past so I felt sure that she would have read this novel. I work with her each Friday morning and as predicted she read the book a number of years ago. When asked for her views she stated that she hated it and was not even sure that she managed to get to the end. Another colleague of mine had also read the book many years ago but liked it so much that she went on to read Cats Eyes which she was less keen on. It seems that The Handmaid's Tale is a Marmite book - you either love it or hate it. I would have to say that I am in the first group although I am rather surprised by this myself. It is a book which would have to be described as outside of my comfort zone! I suspect it is a novel which will continue to divide opinion.

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I won't bother starting a new thread; just bump this one.

 

Just finished it. Loved it.

 

I've criticised Atwood before because of her robot protagonists though in both cases (this and Alias, Grace) the women are supposed to be voiceless so I guess it's forgivable. I like the simplicity of the prose and the exploration of the mediocre. We learn about the world she inhabits but only in bits and pieces, dribs and drabs. It was thoroughly compelling and kept me pretty much gripped to the end though the end itself disappointed me. I really didn't see the point of the final chapter and the university speech about the found recordings; didn't add much to be honest and I'd kinda liked the idea of wondering what happened to her. I would have preferred it ended with her being taken away.

 

Like others, I'd also like to talk about feminism. But while they interpreted Atwood's feminism as the bog-standard, straight-forward version, I saw this book more as an attack on certain aspects of feminism. Firstly. Atwood is a very vocal critic of certain brands of feminism and has said that when asked if she's a feminist, she first wants them to define which feminism they're referring to. Secondly, the book shows that the Aunts, Marthas and wives are the ones that designate what role the women should have (including the unwomen) and it is they who ultimately train and prepare the handmaidens -- the aunts in particular taking the role of bad feminist here. The university lecturer mentions that there's nothing new in getting the local, conquered people to run themselves. Thirdly., there's the scene where the Aunt encourages the women to beat the rapist to death. OfGlen knocks him out to spare him any pain because she knows that the accusation is utterly false. But the rest of the women are encouraged to assume guilt. By the Aunt.

 

How very current. 

 

Edited by hux

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      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.
    • By Lemlest
      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! 
    • By cherrypie
      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?
    • By Dan
      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.
    • By Ting Mikyunyu
      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.
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