Reading-wise 2017 was an ok year but not a fantastic one. I started off badly which led into a massive slump in which fourteen books were rejected. Incidentally the book that helped was Jessie Burton’s The Muse. Anyway I managed to read a few great novels, which segues in my top 10 of the year.
Number 10. Margaret Atwood – Hag-Seed.
The premise behind The Hogarth Shakespeare series are quite interesting: get a contemporary author to reinterpret a Shakespeare play. So far the results have been consistent but my favourite is definitely Margaret Atwood’s re-telling of the Tempest. In this version a shamed theatre director who is teaching drama to prisoners, decides to hold The Tempest as his next production. In reality though this play is part of an elaborate revenge plot. Funny and Clever, Hag-Seed ( a pejorative term from someone born from a witch i.e Caliban) shows that Margaret Atwood still is an unstoppable force.
Read my Goodreads review here.
Number 9. Naomi Alderman – The Power.
What would happen if women managed to shoot electric sparks from their hands via a skein on their necks? Naomi Alderman asks this question and the results are umm electrifying?
Alderman presents a society where women overthrow gender struggle and keep all aggressive men at a distance (or dead). Eventually things do not go as planned which leads to the notion that maybe women in positions of power are just as brutal as men in power. Alderman’s take on gender equality is unique and The Power is open to many interpretations. Definitely a must read. Review here.
It’s funny that I’ve met so many people who have mixed reactions with The Handmaid’s Tale. True, maybe at a first reading it’s may not be as powerful or satirical as Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or Huxley’s Brave New World, and I admit I was one of those people who didn’t really like it back when I read it in 2002 but now this re-read has placed the novel in a new light. Plus I am a huge fan of dystopian novels so it did seem strange that I had a so so opinion on this book.
Offred is a Handmaid, that is her sole purpose is to produce babies in order to keep the declining population of Gilead up and the only person who can ‘mate’ with her is the commander. It has to be said that Offred lives in a house with other handmaids , servants and then there’s the guards and obviously the commander and his wife. Handmaids are taught by traditionalists called Aunts.
As the novel proceeds, Offred’s ( geddit, she is ‘of’ the commander Fred) relationship with the commander becomes more serious and in-between we get glimpses of her previous life when things were normal.
The reason why this novel should be read more than once is that there’s a lot of detail about this world and Offred’s past life and the more one reads the book, the more clear some concepts become. Trust me it’s a story that hits hard and has quite a few horrifying passages. Just a word of advice, do read the epilogue, it’s the one part of the book where everything is put in perspective and the politics of Gilead are fully fleshed out. Out of all the feminist novels I’ve read this is surely the proverbial cream of the crop.
I read Alias Grace back in 2002 and it was my first introduction to Margaret Atwood. Although I have read a good number of her novels, I still hold that this is her best work.
Alias Grace is about the trial and interrogation of servant Grace Marks, who was convicted of murdering her master, Thomas Kinnear in the late 1800’s. To this day the case is still shrouded with mystery and Atwood herself does not take any sides in this aspect of the novel.
The novel is told through different points of view, mostly Marks but her (fictional) psychiatrist Dr. Simon Jordan helps us put pieces of the puzzle together. Ultimately though we do not know if Marks was simply an an accomplice or the actual murderer.
Atwood here is stressing on the plight of women in late 1800’s Canadian society and how they were treated. We see how Marks relationship with her master Kinnear (who has a mistress) and glimpses of her madness and brief institutionalization as well.
Alias Grace is a highly addictive novel and I suggest that it is the best introduction Atwood’s mighty canon. True she has also written many works with a science fiction slant but I feel that Alias Grace brings out all the aspects of feminism that is seen throughout most of her novels.