I can always count on Margaret Atwood to write something completely crazy and yet somehow profound. The Penelopiad tells the story of the Odyssey, but from the point of view of Penelope and the twelve maids whom Telemachus killed for suspected disloyalty.
My favourite parts are when Penelope rants about Helen (as in “of Troy”) because she was actually a total bitch and completely full of herself. It’s nice to see women being all catty even thousands of years ago.
So I was VERY excited to hear that Margaret Atwood was coming out with a new novel. She is one of my favourite contemporary novelists and I’ve loved almost everything I’ve ever read by her. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve read more of her works than anyone else’s (except maybe Shakespeare).
Anyway, as I said in my last post (over a month ago, yikes!) The Year of the Flood overlaps somewhat with Oryx & Crake. It’s the same scenario but goes back a bit to reveal some of the characters that are marginally important in Oryx & Crake. I especially liked Brenda’s role, which is expanded beyond the briefest of mentions in O&K.
And like O&K, I think The Year of the Flood is brilliant. Atwood simply is a master of language and she can really weave a tale. I think I actually liked Oryx & Crake better, but I liked learning about God’s Gardeners in depth and seeing what they were like. And of course I liked how everything ties in to some of the plot line of O&K.
To be perfectly honest, I love Margaret Atwood but had no intentions of reading Oryx and Crake until I found out her new book is somewhat related to it. I thought, “What a strange name for a book. I shan’t read it!” (Except I probably don’t use the word shan’t in my subconscious. Or outer conscious.) But I’m glad I did. The Handmaid’s Tale had always been one of my favourite books of all time, and this was even more grand. There’s something about a good post-apocalyptic science fiction that just gets me.
Oryx and Crake is about a man, Snowman, who lives as a hermit after the initially unexplained destruction of civilization. He lives among (and yet quite separate from) genetically altered docile, human-like creatures, as well as vicious gene-spliced animals which run rampant through the remains of the city. Through a series of flashbacks we begin to learn more about what exactly happened, and about Snowman’s own involvement in the destruction of mankind.
Bottom line: it’s absolutely fabulous. Atwood is so gifted and sometimes really freakin’ scary. She really explores what we’re capable of doing and pushes the boundaries to the extremes – and yet it’s even scarier because her scenarios are never quite too extreme to be impossible. That’s the thing – she calls it speculative fiction because we’re already technically capable of doing a lot of what she depicts, or at least on the direction of it. She just imagines what would happen if we did follow this exact trajectory, and if we allowed ourselves to continue on this path of unhindered consumerism and technological advancements. Basically, Snowman’s world is really our world if we don’t continually ask ourselves if what we’re doing is ethical.
Definitely read this book! I just started The Year of the Flood, which takes place in the same time frame as Oryx and Crake.
Now I have loved Margaret Atwood as a novelist and a poet for a very long time. We read The Handmaid’s Tale in high school and I couldn’t put the book down. And this stanza from her poem Variations on the word sleep have always called to me:
I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.
Anyway, to get back to The Blind Assassin. I honestly found it really confusing. I figured out that it’s about a woman whose novelist sister dies in a car accident, while everyone assumes she committed suicide. The story switches back and forth in time and among several characters from separate generations. Each separate story arc was interesting enough but it was far too confusing for me to keep track. Sadly I couldn’t really love it because it was just so disjointed that I couldn’t get attached to anyone.