Wednesday, 29 November 2017

# book # books

What I Read In November

What I Read in November

Time has been difficult to come by this month. Between work and being ill, I've not had much to myself. Which explains why I read so little, even though it's kind of sad.

What I Read in November

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her "our little genius". 

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into a wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad - Goodreads

The Girl With All The Gifts is DEFINITELY not the book I thought it was going to be. I didn't think too much about it, when reading the synopsis, but its evident early on that this is a zombie novel. Whilst that's a bit 2015 in itself, this is unlike any other zombie book I've ever read. Mostly because the subject of the story is a child.

The children are kept in a pseudo-boarding school environment in which everyone is terribly afraid of them and they are starving for human affection. Spending their lives isolated and strapped to chairs, they are wasting away on an army base in the aftermath of some sort of apocalypse scenario of a virus that affects humans, that are then dubbed "hungries". Melanie is a child desperate to win the approval of her favourite teacher and discovers just quite what she is capable of. After the hungries make it onto the base, Melanie and a handful of adults must make their way to safety.

It's odd to read an adult book from the point of view of a small child, but it worked. The Girl With All The Gifts is sad, heroic and well written. Whilst it's not the best book I've ever read, it's entertaining. I enjoyed the complexity of some of the characters, but Miss Justineau was predictable and her background was disappointing.

I'm not sure why, but I can never take books set in UK that incorporate action seriously. It's not the British way. We don't run around with guns shooting first and asking questions later. We queue for three days to evacuate the country or accept our lot. But that is not a fault of the writer, more of my dislike for dramatics while British.

Overall, I liked it, but I didn't love it.

Rating: 3/5

What I Read in November

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... - Goodreads

Everyone has heard of The Handmaid's Tale. It's one of those books that, even if you haven't read it (or seen the recent TV series), you're aware of its existence and it's often on your reading list. It was definitely on mine, because I knew it was 1984-esque, but I had never actually looked it up to find out what it was about. However, unlike most dystopias, this doesn't centre around a character that has never experienced what came before, it's smack bang in the middle of a strange new life and I am here for this. I get so sick of people fumbling over phones, or being confused by basic things.

The story takes place something like 3 years after the fall of the USA and formation of Gilead. Women have become "protected" citizens whose body is the only thing deemed worth anything - thus they become nothing more than baby making machines; where possible in such a declining population. They aren't allowed to do anything without permission from the man of the household, after which the handmaiden is named. They aren't even allowed to read. Propaganda runs rife, people are executed and displayed along The Wall as a deterrent, and for crimes committed before the wars - when their actions were still legal. Our protagonist Offred was torn from her husband and daughter and became a handmaiden, she must serve whichever household she belongs to. Told in fumbling prose, Offred weaves seamlessly from present day to recent past and continues to be effortlessly engaging in the process.

However, The Handmaid's Tale seems to be more of a scare mongering cautionary tale than it is a story. Many parts of it make no sense and whilst this can be explained away from Offred's limited point of view, so very much of the padding is lacking. How has the country descended so quickly from liberalism to quasi-religious fundamentalism? I found it very difficult to believe that this would have happened in 3 years, from start to finish. It can take decades to change society in any notable way. Why have women become slaves to men? Some notions of control are introduced by the Commander, but that's it. What were the events leading up to this? Why is there a population crisis, who were the people who "disbanded" the government and what reason did they have for doing it? Why was liberalism rejected? I have a lot of questions. As an intelligent woman, during the uprising of Gilead, Offred would have known what was happening to a certain point and that could have been woven into the plot instead of one of the many flashbacks of her husband that served no purpose.

All that being said, I enjoyed this book but I don't deem it a "Must Read", not by a long shot. It's often sited as one of the best feminist fictions of all time and whilst it's a great story, the execution was a little lacking. We don't have quite enough information to truly understand the reasons for anything that happens and the lack of punctuation for speech drove me insane.

Rating: 3.5/5

2 comments:

  1. If a little bird wants to send me a pdf of the handmaids tale then I would be very happy haha :D I've wanted to read it for a long time so it's good to know its not the worst at least.

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    Replies
    1. it was pretty good. i made the mistake of trying to watch the tv show along side it as the episodes are named the same as the chapter. it doesn't follow the same story line or time line.

      also, maybe check your email ;)

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