Review: The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood

36 - The Heart Goes LAst

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: 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: 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!

Review: The Girl With All the Gifts – M. R. Carey

TGWATGI only picked this up to read the first page or two when I didn’t know what I wanted to read. I picked a few books up before it, nothing sat right and then I picked up this and I couldn’t put it down. Seriously. I picked it up at 6:30 on Monday morning and was 100 pages through it by 9 after my daily commute.

It was such a fast paced book, as you can probably assume from a 100 page blitz before 9am! But I was practically glued to it when I had some free time, I didn’t want to socialise with my friends because I wanted to know what happened to Melanie.

Melanie, or our girl with all the gifts, has grown up in what is essentially a prison and we slowly find out why that is over the first hundred pages or so, but there isn’t a certain answer until the very end, really. I don’t want to talk too much about the plot because I want don’t want to ruin it – this book is such a Pandora’s box that I want to keep it that way!

It’s more than a ‘thriller’ – if anything it’s only tenuously a thriller. There’s nothing I can really compare it to either, it’s just a book that stands so beautifully on its own that I don’t want to throw it in to a category! It says a lot about humanity, and in a way it makes you question which person you would be if it came down to it. Some of the relationships are a bit distorted, lines are blurred, sometimes you don’t quite know who the good guy is.

I’m so glad I picked this up; truthfully it was quite low on my TBR so I’m really happy I did just pick it up by chance because I don’t know when I would have otherwise got around to it! My main issue is that the ending was quite rushed and I found some of the middle too long – it could have done with being a little more well paced towards the last third. The story is fantastic and I can’t fault it for that but I do feel it could have been something more. 4/5