Review: The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

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Rating – 2*

I really wanted to enjoy this, I really thought I’d enjoy this. Spoiler for you, I didn’t.

There is no denying that Atwood can write, technically this book is brilliant. The prose is – on the whole – incredible but for me, this 600+ page beast was just a disappointment. The characters, the plot, the whole novel-within-the-novel-within-the-novel situation – it was tedious and exhausting. By the time I reached the final 100-150 pages, I had long since lost interest. By that point I was honestly just trying to plod through and finish the damn thing.

The main character, Iris Chase, may be the weakest, most unlikable female character I have ever had the misfortune to read from the perspective of. I had absolutely no connection to her which made this book even more of a challenge. The story of Iris’ life was just so unbelievable that the plot just didn’t grip me, it had me snorting in disbelief instead. Everyone around her dies and it doesn’t feel believable, it feels like everyone dying is just a convenient plot twist in order for the author to write this exact book.

As I said, this book is a story-within-a-story-within-a-story. It was too many layers not executed to their best I feel. Technically, it was very impressive but as a reader it was just too convoluted. Come the end of the story, I was bored with all the layers to this book. I happened to think this structure was overkill, and I wasn’t compelled by anyone or anything. For me, I’d have preferred to have had the book be 200 pages fewer and one less layer to the narrative (because the complexity was, for me, surplus).

However much I disliked it, the prose was – in places – undeniably beautiful and for that, Atwood will never get less than a 2* review from me. But, out of all the Atwood I’ve read, this is by far my least favourite. I know that’s like blasphemy, it’s a Booker Prize winner, it’s probably one of her more  critically acclaimed books but for me, it just fell flat.

If you want good Atwood, I’d recommend The Handmaids Tale or Oryx and Crake/Year of the Flood – they surpass this monumentally in my opinion.

Review: The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood

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Rating – 3*

I’m glad I finally got around to this. I picked it up around the time it was released last year, and if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll be familiar with it’s presence on several TBRs since then. It’s just been a book that I’ve been a bit unsure as to whether I want to pick it up, and haven’t quite been in the mood for. However, I picked it as my book club book for May – and finally got around to it in July – so that is at least progress. I had heard mixed reviews about this, and they came from people who usually agreed on books so I was really dubious about if I would like this or not.

It follows the story of Stan and Charmaine in a not-so-distant-future. I love Atwood’s speculative fiction; Maddaddam and The Handmaid’s Tale are among some of the best speculative fiction I’ve read. Naturally, because of that, this book was one I went in to with high expectations and actually, I disliked a significant portion of this. There was an underlying tone which just didn’t resonate with me – for one the gender roles felt very dated.

As for characters, I detested both Stan and Charmaine; given the choice I’d say I preferred Stan. It was Jocelyn I liked most, both she and Stan’s brother (the name of who evades me now, 2 weeks on) but even then, some of the characterisation was so problematic for me.

It’s taken me 2 weeks to review this and I find the more I think about it the less positive I feel about it. As a result of that, this could never be more than a 3* book from my point of view. 

Review: The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood

yearofthefloodHoly mother. I hate to post reviews on top of each other like this – within 24 hours of each other – but this book. THIS BOOK. I just had to. I’m sorry!

I loved this so much more than Oryx and Crake. I read the first in this series in December and, while I enjoyed it, I struggled to get through it at times. This I was sucked in from the outset as, while Oryx wasn’t at the forefront of my mind as I initially went in to it, it made me love the first part of this trilogy more in hindsight. It’s not really a sequel, more of the same event from a different perspective that fills in some of the blanks and I really appreciated that!

The Year of the Flood is more about the ‘everyday’ life in the future that Atwood has created. We follow two women; Toby and Ren. We get their stories, both before and after “The Flood”. We explore the cultish movement of “The Gardeners” and how they met as characters, how they developed over the years with The Gardeners. I found this absolutely fascinating, I can’t lie. I loved the exploration of what is essentially a religion based around both Christianity and Veganism at extremes – it was so interesting!

Atwood shaped characters so wonderfully in this book. I’d happily read a book from any of the perspectives of the main body of characters we are introduced to over the course of this novel. Pilar, the beekeeper was the character I really wanted to know more about and didn’t quite get enough of and I’d have loved to have read from her point of view because I think she had a very interesting story to tell! The characters in this were what made me love it all the more, I found them so much more readable than those in Oryx and Crake.

A moment that really made this book all the more fantastic – and how it embellished Oryx and Crake all the more – was when things started to weave together. In Oryx and Crake – Jimmy reads his lovers diary; this isn’t a very big moment, in fact it’s quite a small moment that’s very much a non-event which was only triggered in my memory by the fact that it is told from Ren’s perspective in The Year of the Flood. It becomes a lot more personal, it’s Ren’s diary he is reading and now she isn’t just some girl, she’s a fully fleshed out character that we’ve got the story of. That was actually a moment where I sat back and went “woah!”

A lot of people said this was a step down from Oryx and Crake but I disagree. I found this more compelling to read and, also, I found that it made Oryx and Crake more enjoyable in hindsight having had some additional information from this. Though this could be read as a standalone, reading it after Oryx and Crake will probably mean you get the most out of it as a reader.

I’m apparently having a very good month because I’m giving this a 5/5 too. Damn I can’t wait to read MaddAddam!