More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.
Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.
As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.
I didn’t read The Handmaid’s Tale until 2014. Suffice it to say, I was a little late to the party. It was an incredibly visceral possibility of a potential future that only shows just how fragile women’s rights can be. But even after reading it and then seeing the show and how they expanded on the source material, I never felt that the book really needed a sequel.
When The Testaments was first released, I found myself caught up in the excitement of it, despite my reservations. I remember only getting a few chapters in, if that, before deciding I just wasn’t interested in this story. I blame my renewed addiction to the show for stirring up my curiosity once again and the reason I actually finished it this time.
Prior to reading, I had seen a lot of reviews refer to the writing style as being very much like a young adult novel. I didn’t think that this was at all possible… it’s an Atwood, after all. The Testaments is told from three different points of view: Aunt Lydia’s sections were unexpectedly enlightening and the most interesting of the trio. The other two were told from the points of view of two teenage girls, one living in Gilead and the other in Canada, and these were the sections possessing the young adult style writing style. Now, that’s not to say that these girls didn’t require a childish tone, it did fit. My issue was with the Canadian girl especially and her continued focus on this guy she had a crush on while in the midst of death and other atrocities that was the most ridiculous pill to swallow.
“I was getting more childish by the minute. He brought it out in me.”
For fans of the show, hearing Aunt Lydia’s passages read in the voice of Ann Dowd was a real treat. As I said, Aunt Lydia’s sections were surprisingly the most interesting and gave readers a vastly different perspective compared to Offred/June’s in the original novel. It also answered a lot of questions that you may have had, but again, I’m not sure it was vital that we were given these answers. The Handmaid’s Tale held more sway over readers by leaving some aspects shrouded in mystery, forcing us to formulate our own answers. I’m not sure why Atwood decided that she would finally reveal all after thirty-four years, but some things are simply better left unsaid.
The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented
February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.
From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.
Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?
DNF @ 3%
Me: “Wow! 166 audiobook narrators seems insane but that could be really cool. Like a full-cast play!”
Me mid-listen: “Well, it’s kind of convoluted but not too bad. It’s not really interesting though, at least so far. And when the other narrators speak up they kind of sound like they’re detached from the main production… if that makes sense. Like, floating disconnected voices. I’m intrigued though!”
“When we are newly arrived in this hospital-yard, young sir, and feel like weeping, what happens is, we tense up ever so slightly, and there is a mildly toxic feeling in the joints, and little things inside us burst. Sometimes we might poop a bit if we are fresh. Which is just what I did, out on the cart that day: I pooped a bit while fresh, in my sick-box, out of rage, and what was the result? I have kept that poop with me all this time, and as a matter of fact–I hope you do not find this rude, young sir, or off-putting, I hope it does not impair our nascent friendship–that poop is still down there, at this moment, in my sick-box, albeit much dryer!”
Sorry, but uh, that definitely does impair our friendship, kind sir.
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
DNF @ 15%
I had high hopes for this one. Romance + war + magical realism… honestly anything magical realism makes my ears perk up even though little of it ever works for me. I wanted to know more about the war itself, the state of the world and how they had reached the point they were at, but by 15% the most detailed information given was about Saeed’s mom and dad’s sex life before he was born. Which, no thanks.
I also had a bit of an issue with the writing that I could have easily ignored if the story itself was captivating. But lines like this:
“He was an independent-minded, grown man, unmarried, with a decent post and a good education, and as was the case in those days in his city with most independent-minded, grown men, unmarried, with decent posts and good educations, he lived with his parents.”
In four years Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the job by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation every created.
Retired from NASA, Helen had not trained for irrelevance. It is nobody’s fault that the best of her exists in space, but her daughter can’t help placing blame. The MarsNOW mission is Helen’s last chance to return to the only place she’s ever truly felt at home. For Yoshi, it’s an opportunity to prove himself worthy of the wife he has loved absolutely, if not quite rightly.
Sergei is willing to spend seventeen months in a tin can if it means travelling to Mars. He will at least be tested past the point of exhaustion, and this is the example he will set for his sons.
As the days turn into months the line between what is real and unreal becomes blurred, and the astronauts learn that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The Wanderers gets at the desire behind all exploration: the longing for discovery and the great search to understand the human heart.
DNF @ 5%
There isn’t anything particularly wrong with this one, but when you compare it to The Martian, I’m going to have certain expectations. The Wanderers is more character study than anything and isn’t anywhere close to humorous. The dialogue felt stilted, there was a lot of talk about creating suits for space which could be cool but really wasn’t. I also read a slight spoiler that made me convinced I made the right decision View Spoiler »they never even make it to Mars? It’s all about training to get there and… that’s it? « Hide Spoiler All in all, it was a snooze fest and I just wasn’t in the mood.