Review: MaddAddam – Margaret Atwood

maddaddamMaddAddam has been a book that I’ve put off for a while as I haven’t quite felt ready to end the trilogy. I found Oryx & Crake okay, I absolutely adored The Year of the Flood but this, I actually found this a little disappointing as the conclusion to the trilogy.

After finishing The Year of the Flood I was pretty excited to get started on this. The prior two books had converged neatly at a point – they were told from two perspectives about the same events and because of this I was very much expecting this to go full steam ahead in to the future and conclude in some epic ending and it just didn’t. It was mostly flashbacks, which while interesting made the book feel painfully slow. Zeb is interesting and finding out how he got to the point he is at in this book was great but I wanted to go in to the future, not go further back! Jimmy spends most of this book in a coma, the women from the second book are mostly ignored. Toby gets some ‘screentime’ but not nearly what I feel enough and… I just felt disappointed.

The main issue for me is I don’t think this was what I was expecting. It was like walking through treacle, in all honesty. What I found most disappointing what it went from two books with genetically engineered dystopian futures to, well, what I felt was a joke. Nothing about this was believable an it felt as if it were a parody of the two previous books. It just paled in comparison. It doesn’t change my opinion on either of the former, The Year of the Flood remains one of the best books I’ve read this year but I can’t say I would recommend reading this. It wasn’t the satisfying ending I had hoped for and yes, it was perfectly readable but it just wasn’t anywhere near as good as Oryx & Crake or The Year of the Flood.

Because of this, MaddAddam gets a 3* review from me with the advice that you should only read this as a completionist and not with any expectations for it to meet. I wish I had stopped at The Year of the Flood. It was good, but it was a let down from the previous two.

Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke

strangeandnorrellTo try and sum this book up is difficult. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a book that spans 1005 pages, it is modern yet reads like something by Dickens, it’s a slow burn that builds up ever so gradually and to try and summarise it in to a review and do it justice, I feel, is an impossibility. This is going to be a long review which tells very little as I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who does want to read this!

I’m going to break from my mould of reviews to give this a quick taster to anyone who has looked at the sheer enormity of this book and been put off, as someone who was really dubious as to whether this book was going to be for me, I just want to give a brief indication of the reading experience for this, because 1000 page books are daunting for even the most avid of readers. My first thing to say to anyone thinking about this is that if a 1000+ book that is a very slow burn with several sub-plots and footnotes isn’t something that tickles your pickle, then this book is probably not one for you. I would say if you like fantasy or historical fiction maybe give it a go and try the first 100 pages or so if you do want to just step outside of your comfort zone, just to see if you like it. On the other hand, if you appreciate all of those things and like a book that reads as if it was a very approachable, borderline fantasy book by Dickens then you will more than likely love this.

With that brief introduction over, I have to say I loved this book. It probably could have done with being 200 pages or so shorter but then, I enjoyed every minute I was either listening to or reading this. It straddles the borders between several genres of fiction – all of which I do enjoy – there is historical fiction, fantasy, it reads as if it were written by Dickens and has that approachability of a YA novel and I just loved that. The characters themselves were incredible. Mr Norrell is detestable yet oddly endearing; I found I liked him much more in the first half of the book than the second but, then, the first portion of this book is primarily Norrell with only a smattering of other characters. Jonathan Strange isn’t actually introduced until the 250 page mark and is a character who I did find interesting but somewhat annoying, he’s much more likeable over the course of the novel than Norrell and the twist in his story towards the end of the second section did break me a little. What I particularly liked is the downward spiral from that point in to the third section where things become desperate.

What I loved so much about this is that the characters were severely flawed. I appreciated that magic couldn’t solve all their woes. As I said above, the downward spiral of Jonathan Strange over the final third of the book was one that I could hardly put down. I actually read most of this book over the period of the bank holiday weekend because I was just so enthralled by it all!

The research that must have gone in to this book is also incredible. Susanna Clarke has written a fantasy novel which is based around the Napoleonic War and the affect on England and in spite of the magical elements it is historically accurate. Some of it did read more like an academic work; there are long arguments of why some magic can or cannot be done, citations from works of magicians who are long dead with footnotes which are insanely long (and I found really interesting though, I can understand why some people hate them!) There is also this grasp on the age in which Strange and Norrell are living which makes this feel very authentic in it’s efforts to come across as a 19th century novel.

I really can’t express my love for this book enough. It took me a month to read in full, but 600 pages were read over 2 days in the end. It was a slow, meandering read and I appreciated that. I’m still torn as to whether it is a 4* or a 5* book so I’m going to say it’s a 4.5 for now. However, I’m very excited to now go and watch the TV series, I just hope it lives up to the novel!