Tag: Ambiguity

Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale | Review

Title: The Handmaid’s Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 324

Rating: 5*/5

 

Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale

 

This one is a serious contender for my book of the year so far and I can’t believe it took me this long to read it. As dystopian novels go, this is up there with 1984, and I personally preferred it. That’s quite the statement to make, especially when you consider that I’m an Orwell fan.

There are only three minor quibbles that I had with it. The first is that Atwood gets overzealous with commas and likes to use them, in weird places. A bit like that. The second is that the novel itself had the perfect ambiguous ending which was then immediately watered down by the “Historical Notes on The Handmaid’s Tale” at the end which basically removes the ambiguity of the first ending and sets up a second, slightly weaker ambiguous ending. And the third is that in the end, Offred basically gets brought down because she gets involved with a man. I was hoping all the way through that she’d have more common sense than that, but she didn’t.

Other than that, though, it’s an insightful dystopian novel which examines themes of sexuality, gender and feminism, but not in a way that will push you away if you’re a dude. Actually, the men in the book aren’t exactly in the best of situations, although they are admittedly better off than the women. But the historical stuff that happened which led up to the events of the novel feels plausible, and I can’t help but wonder how much inspiration Atwood found in the Nazi and Soviet regimes. Having just got back from Latvia, which was devastated by years of German and Russian oppression, it really hit close to the bone.

All in all, then, everyone should read this book, if only because it’s a warning. We’re lucky it’s just a story.

 

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

 

Click here to buy The Handmaid’s Tale.

 


Meg Wolitzer – The Interestings | Review

Title: The Interestings

Author: Meg Wolitzer

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 468

Rating: 10/10

 

Meg Wolitzer - The Interestings

Meg Wolitzer – The Interestings

 

Disclaimer: While I aim to be unbiased, I received a copy of this for free to review.

Wow, what can I say? I’m a convert. I wasn’t sure what to think when I first picked up this book, considering it started off set in an American summer camp, the kind of place that a British boy like me has no experience of whatsoever. Luckily, that plays a relatively minor role in the narrative, although it sure as hell leaves its mark on the protagonists.

And I can safely say, hand on heart, that this is one of the most interesting (geddit?) and well-written modern novels that I’ve read in a long time, a credit to both Wolitzer and to the Waterstones book club, which is the reason why I read it in the first place. I’m glad I did – I don’t often give a book a ten out of ten when I review it, I reserve that honour for a book that left me changed when I reached the ending. That definitely happened here.

Particularly worthy of credit is Wolitzer’s ability to write about characters of both sexes convincingly – too many novelists can only write about their own gender, but Wolitzer’s characters are well-rounded and believable whether they’re male or female, even if you don’t necessarily like them.

 

Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer

 

There’s even a rape involved, an event that’s covered with ambiguity and extremely well-handled – despite being unnecessarily hailed as a ‘feminist writer’ (this annoys me as much as Graham Greene being a ‘Catholic writer‘, rather than just a ‘writer’), Wolitzer lends equal gravitas to both sides of the argument. You’re never quite sure who’s telling the truth, and in the end you feel kind of sorry for both parties, although I’m sure everyone has their own idea of what really happened by the end of the novel.

My only gripe is with the title – to be fair, it has significance (it’s the name that the group of teenage campers assigns to themselves), and it has been praised by other people. I’m just not a fan of the approach of taking an adjective and turning it in to a noun for the title of a book or a movie – it’s done all the time, as with The Incredibles, The Expendables and even The Inbetweeners.

But overall, The Interestings is an epic novel, a must-read whether you’re old or young, American or British, an introvert or an extrovert. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it anywhere near as much as I did, and I almost cried at the end – not the reaction you’d expect from a male in his mid-twenties, a geeky book blogger who reads on the bus to work. Meg Wolitzer, I salute you, and I look forward to reading more of your work. Make sure you stay interesting.

 

Meg Wolitzer Quote

Meg Wolitzer Quote

 

Click here to buy The Interestings.

 


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