Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Book Review | The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Hello one and all and welcome to the Ma Bicyclette Book Club. Firstly, I must apologise for my unforgivable absence over these past few months. I know, I know - bad reviewer. Unfortunately, I wasn't lost in an everlasting library of literary classics, which might actually be an acceptable excuse in this situation(and also a book lover's wet dream!) No, I was getting fired, job hunting, starting a new job, and finally taking a well-deserved break to Santorini with my one true love - Margaret Atwood. Oh and my boyfriend!

I will begin today's lecture (because aren't we always learning?), and surprise surprise it's about our one and only Canadian feminist, Margaret Atwood and her recent book, The Year of the Flood.

For those of you that can't hear my heart swooning, I will admit now that I have been a HUUUUUGE Atwood fan since I read The Handmaid's Tale in A-level English (I highly recommend it, by the way). I don't know why, but as soon I read her beautifully descriptive words, filled with pain, hope and possibility, something clicked. My heart swelled and I thought... "I want me some more o' that!"

For those of you that know (or don't know) Atwood's work, The Year of the Flood is actually a bit of a prequel to one of her other books Oryx and Crake, but don't worry you don't have to have read one to understand the other (although I would again HIGHLY recommend it).

The story is set in an all too similar world to ours and flips back and forth to a pre and post apocalyptic society, through narratives from our two protagonists: Ren and Toby. Both women's stories are cleverly linked, despite one being a prostitute and "trapeze artist" at a strip club - "Scales & Tails" - and the other being a senior member of a cult-like religious group, called "God's Gardeners," who believe a "waterless flood" will end the world and only they will be saved. Got that? Good, moving on...

At the start, we meet Toby and Ren, who both managed to survive the dreaded "waterless flood" - guess the doomsday crazies were right! It actually turned out to be some kind of biomedical plague that wipes out the majority of our civilisation. The girls survive due to situations that kept them both in isolation as the disease went biblically epic. As the narrative jumps backwards and forwards, the individual stories of these two women, who seem so different, start to merge together in a magnificently moving way. They have both suffered in a society where scientific knowledge is moving at the speed of light (pun intended), while spiritual, emotional and most of all human elements are left behind to wither and die. Despite this, these struggling women, with all their issues and problems, seem to stay strong - and dare I say the cliche - hopeful.

The main themes in the book are the ideas of science and belief and whether the two can successfully exist side by side (as the God's Gardeners try and do), but more importantly the idea of a human future on this earth if we carry on as we are doing.What is so striking about this whole piece is that Atwood darkly brings us a world losing control in a way that is so believable; it will have you reading scientific journals under the quilt in fear. The most terrifying aspect is that despite some of the crazier aspects - sheep being genetically altered and bred to grow different coloured human hair, rather than wool, to boost the sale of hair-extensions, and the sex wearers wearing the equivalent of an all over body condom, with sequins on, to protect them from disease - this world is eerily plausible and this is Atwood's greatest strength. She has created a tale that will have you laughing in disbelief, watching the news in concern and weeping softly into a tissue. All at once.

Now, I am aware I haven't told you much about the plot in this review, but I just couldn't do that to you. If I tell you too much, it will ruin the exquisitely crafted story of these two (anti) heroines and diminish the reading experience vastly. The main point of this review is not to describe the book to you in detail; with character histories and hidden meanings - but to express the absolute talent of a writer whose every novel, including The Year of the Flood, is crafted not just with humour, intelligence, and dark possibilities, but also an underlying love and hope for ourselves as people and what we could possibly dare to be. And that is why you have to read this book... oh, and why I love her so! Right, I'm off to set up my "I heart Atwood" fan club. Hopefully, I'll see you there soon...

Nikki B

1 comment:

  1. I read this only last month and completely loved it too. I'd read Oryx and Crake but had probably forgotten too many of the details, which made it a bit confusing at times.

    Also, just found this blog and am totally hooked!