Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Reading a Little.. October

The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood

Since reading The Handmaid's Tale I have loved Atwood's work - her writing is gripping and she paints a very bleak picture of the future. I really enjoyed The Year of the Flood- it isn't a sequel to Oryx and Crake, rather it works alongside it. There are a number of character overlaps between the two books and I found the ending of this quite poignant when compared to the ending of Oryx. A disturbing vision of Earth in the future where cloning and DNA mutations have become out of control - people can literally renew bits they don't like, hair transplants are so common it is like going to the hairdressers and the splicing of various animals has led to some freaky and downright weird combinations. Forget Ligers - I wouldn't want to be caught anywhere near a Liobam or one of the humanised pigs that feature in this. A group of people have become disillusioned with the way things are and in a peaceful protest refuse to eat anything meat related, scavenge for useful bits thrown out in the trash and are totally self-reliant - they grow their own food, make their own clothes and recycle what they can. This tells the stories of Ren and Toby - two of 'God's Gardeners' and the people who's lives have intertwined with theirs along the way. As always, Atwood managed to keep me wanting to 'just read the next page' until I found I was still up at 2am having to get up for work at 6... very enjoyable and has made me want to go back to revisit Oryx and Crake.

Arthur and George - Julian Barnes

I read something else by Julian Barnes about ten years ago and hated it so hadn't read anything else by him since. But I was intrigued when someone suggested this as a biography I should try. It is really a historical novel and while there are clearly a lot of embellishments, there were places that I really wasn't sure how much had been made up. It tells the combined stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji - one a rising star in the literary world, keen to make a noise and get recognised for what he did, the other a quiet solicitor who gets wrongly accused of the Wyrley Outrages due to prejudice and incompetence by the Staffordshire police. The events are based on facts: Conan Doyle did become a champion of injustice and stepped in to help prove George's innocence although the home office never totally cleared him of all charges. Having read Nevermore earlier this year I found it quite strange coming across all sorts of cross overs- especially in the spiritual and relationship parts. I enjoyed reading this but more because I was interested in the subject than because I was attached to the characters or the writing style. 

 The Red Tent - Anita Diamant

This had me gripped right from the very first pages. It is the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, sister of Joseph and his brothers and how her destiny was formed. The Red Tent is the story of the women, of the secrets and rituals they held and the pleasures and tragedies each lived. Dinah is the only daughter mothered by Jacob's four wives and because of that, she is petted and adored by all her mothers. She learns the way of midwifery from her mother Rachel and the guidance of Inna - a midwife who joins Jacob's train. This is a tragedy and there were definitely places where I just could not believe what I was reading, but it still held me wanting to read more. It gives a believable idea of what life could have been like for the women of the era, how, before Judaism and the other major religions were properly formed, different people and tribes accepted and embraced other gods, or certainly lived in respect of other's beliefs. Dinah's fate is that of a girl who is forced to grow up too quickly in a cruel world, where her greatest love becomes the root of misery for many. Beautifully written, engaging characters and evoking a huge amount of sympathy from the reader, I highly recommend this novel.

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