The Handmaids Tale, Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

I read an adult novel. Not only that, I read an adult novel that’s technically a classic and I liked it. (that’s two adults in a row. This is a rare and strange thing)

I don’t know if like is the right word though. Because it’s an uneasy and occasionally hard read, and not exactly enjoyable. But it was interesting and fascinating and I read it in two days.

I mean, I find it hard to believe we could ever make the leap between what we are now to that type of world – but then, the characters in the book didn’t think that either. I actually loved this way of looking at it; in most dystopian books, its years after society starts to change and no one knows any different. In this, it’s still in those first few years – every character knows of before even if they can’t talk about it. And it gave an extra part of horror to the whole thing – because things can change that quickly. Really, hopefully not that much but like… you could kinda see someone like Trump going yeah you know what lets stop women accessing their money without their husbands there. 

Talking of husbands – I often say the reason’s I dont like adult fiction is because in every book I’ve read there’s been cheating and alcoholics. That… doesn’t technically stop in this book (I mean, the whole idea of a handmaid is so they have sex with other peoples husbands to have children…) and the men still like to drink… but the actual story and way it was written made me not-as-annoyed as normal.

It is, overall, one of the best and most chilling dystopias I have ever read and I think I will be reading more Atwood at some point.

five stars

On the TBR Pile: Arcadia, by Iain Pears

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Henry Lytten – a spy turned academic and writer – sits at his desk in Oxford in 1962, dreaming of other worlds.

He embarks on the story of Jay, an eleven-year-old boy who has grown up within the embrace of his family in a rural, peaceful world – a kind of Arcadia. But when a supernatural vision causes Jay to question the rules of his world, he is launched on a life-changing journey.

Lytten also imagines a different society, highly regulated and dominated by technology, which is trying to master the science of time travel.

Meanwhile – in the real world – one of Lytten’s former intelligence colleagues tracks him down for one last assignment.

As he and his characters struggle with questions of free will, love, duty and the power of the imagination, Lytten discovers he is not sure how he wants his stories to end, nor even who is imaginary…

On the TBR Pile: One Day, by David Nicholls

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It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another.
Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

On the TBR Pile: The Life of Elves, by Muriel Barbery

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The villagers had never seen anything like it: dense white curtains of snow that instantly transformed the landscape. Not in autumn, not here in Burgundy. And on the same night a baby was discovered, dark-eyed little Maria, who would transform all their lives.

Hundreds of miles away in the mountains of Abruzzo, another foundling, Clara, astonishes everyone with her extraordinary talent for piano-playing. But her gifts go far beyond simple musicianship.

As a time of great danger looms, though the girls know nothing of each other, it is the bond that unites them and others like them, which will ultimately offer the only chance for good to prevail in the world.

Our Endless Numbered Days, Claire Fuller

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Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.
Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.
Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

I honestly don’t know what to say about this book.

I enjoyed it, for the most part. The characters were interesting- and looking at them from the eyes of 8-year-old Peggy was sometimes entertaining and sometimes strange.

From the start, you know there’s something…odd about her father- when her mother goes back on tour as a musician, he seems to lose the plot, letting Peggy off school and getting her to live at the bottom of the garden and forgetting about the house.

And then when he takes her away- well, ‘normal’ doesn’t really mix with telling a kid that they are the last people on earth.

Her life in the ‘wilderness’ was lovely to read about- Fuller had a charming way of writing about their survival and Peggy’s new world, and it does draw you in. From the time Peggys father decides to craft a piano to the cold hard winter they almost didn’t see the end of, to Peggy growing up and becoming a teenager in their small world.

I mean, the book in itself was not hard to read. Most of the twists were predictable, so when it came to the reveal you just shrugged and carried on- but then, not every book you read is for the twists and turns and on the edge of the seat reading. Sometimes It’s just…nice.

But it was the end I had a major problem is. It turned- in the last 20 pages- from this interesting survival thing to a creepy just…wrong… thing. I mean, after so many years of being alone there are bound to be some problems, but the father cracks up (thinking Peggy is her mother- which I’m sure you can all imagine is just…awful) but Peggy herself ends up going slightly mad to try and deal with her father.

And the end has annoyed me- because I loved the rest of the book but hated the last few chapters so much I could barely actually finish it.