murderess?

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (1996)

Grace Marks was just 16 in 1843 when she was first sentenced to death, then life for the murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear and a housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. James McDermott, who also worked on the estate, was hanged for the murders. Grace is placed in an asylum, where she does work for the family who runs it. There she is having conversations with a young doctor, Simon Jordan, who wants to examine her psyche.  Did Grace really partake in the murders?

Based on real events, Atwood has given life to Grace and painted a picture of her life before and in the asylum. And it is definitely interesting, I enjoyed the story and all the details. There are so many fascinating minor characters like Jeremiah the Peddler, Jordan’s landlady and her servant. I also got really interested in Susanna Moodie, so I need to read her account of migrating to Canada.

Despite being so good, it took two months to read this one. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because the book is so rich in details and prose. Atwood is still my favourite to win the Nobel prize and I’m glad I still have many books yet to read by her.

I’m left with some questions after finishing the book. Was she really guilty or not? If you have read it, what do you think?  And what really happened after she finally was released from the asylum? There’s a historic mystery waiting to be solved.

This was December’s read in Line’s 1001 books reading circle.

fifty.

the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
“I almost gasp: he’s said a forbidden word. Sterile. There is no such thing as a sterile man anymore, not officially. There are only women who are fruitful and women who are barren, that’s the law.”
The republic of Gilead is a strict religious society where the women are divided into groups. The Wives, dressed in blue, are on top of the chain, while the Daughters dress in white. The Econowives are married to men of lower statuses, and wear multicoloured dresses. The Handmaids dress in red and are surrogates for the infertile Wives. Then you have the Aunts in brown dresses who teach the Handmaids how to behave and the domestic servants, Marthas dressed in green.
Offred is the narrator who tells her tale while living in a house of a Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. Her daily life is a routine, and the only joy is the shopping round with an other Handmaid. But although she has been taught this new life, how can she forget her old life, when she was free, and had a man and a child? She doesn’t know if they are dead or alive at this point. 
I think this is one of the most provoking books I’ve read. The society is so anti-women that it made me quite mad. And of course it made me feel grateful for my freedom. It is brilliantly written, but to be honest, the end really disappointed me; I wanted more answers. I never seem to get enough answers when I read dystopian novels, I’m really fascinated with the societies and histories. 
I think this is the best Atwood book I’ve read. And it has placed her very high up on my list of favourite authors. Read it! This was also October’s read in Line’s 1001 books reading challenge.

forty-five, forty-six: maddaddam

Oryx & Crake (2003), MaddAddam (2013) by Margaret Atwood

 ““What if they get out? Go on a rampage? Start breeding, then the population spirals out of control – like those big green rabbits?”
“That would be a problem,” said Crake. “But they won’t get out. Nature is to zoos as God is to churces.”
“Meaning what?” said Jimmy. He wasn’t paying close attention, he was worrying about the ChickieNobs and wolvogs. Why is it he feels some line has  been crossed, some boundary transgressed? How much is too much, how far is too far?”

Jimmy, or the Snowman as the Crakers call him, is the only man left after the human population has been wiped out due to a virus. The Crakers are a specie designed in a gene-lab by Crake; they are perfect and lack the destructive tendencies of mankind. Snowman tells them stories about how Oryx and Crake made the world. But although the world is free of men, there are other human-made dangers, like the wolvogs and pigoons – enormous pigs with human organs and cells.

While telling the story in the present day, we also get a glimpse of what Jimmy’s life used to be, and who Crake is. The second book in the trilogy, the Year of the Flood, happens at the same time as Oryx & Crake, but at a different place in the same city, and with Ren and Toby as the narrators. MaddAddam starts when Jimmy meets Ren and Toby and then finally takes the story forward. You also get to learn the story of Zeb. The stories of the characters are really fascinating and definitely my favourite part of the trilogy. I also like how MaddAddam is built-up like a bible for the Crakers, and I just adored the Crakers, especially Blackbeard.

I read the trilogy as a critique of how the humans are abusing the planet’s resources and how the technology will destroy us all if we aren’t careful. And it is (of course) set in a totalitarian state. I have read a couple of dystopian novels and this trilogy is high on my list of favourites. Thanks to a week on the couch, I read them all in a couple of days and they turned into some pretty vivid dreams.

I read Oryx and Crake when it was published 10 years ago, but I felt that I needed to reread it after reading the Year of the Flood. What I really like is that it doesn’t matter which one you read first. And I found it easier to read the Year of the Flood first, then Oryx and Crake. Although MaddAddam has a recap of the two other books, I strongly recommend to read them!

Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors, and I’m glad I still haven’t read her most famous works, so I have something to look forward to. She’s also one of my favourites for the Nobel prize.  

forty-three.

the Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (2009)

 “As the first heat hits, mist rises from among the swath of trees between her and the derelict city. The air smells faintly of burning, a smell of caramel and tar and rancid barbecues, and the ashy but greasy smell of a garbage-dump fire after it’s been raining. The abandoned towers in the distance are like the coral of an ancient reef – bleached and colourless, devoid of life. There is still life, however. Birds chirp; sparrows, they must be. Their small voices are clear and sharp, nails on glass: there’s no longer any sound of traffic to drown them out. Do they notice the quietness, the absence of motors? If so, are they happier?”

Year 25 in the Gardeners’ calendar; the year of the waterless flood. The year which wiped out most of the human race. Toby is a survival at a spa, where she lives off the organic food and the rooftop garden. Another survivor is Ren, who has been locked in an isolated room at the sex shop where she works as it is suspected that she is unclean. Both women have been members of the Gardeners – a religious eco-cult.

This is the second book in the MaddAddam-trilogy, and it’s almost a decade since I read the first book, Oryx and Crake, which I barely remember, but remember as difficult to grasp until the end. And that’s probably why it has taken so long before I started on this one (and because the final book has just been published). the Year of the Flood is a lot more easier to read. Im really curious about how the trilogy is going to end. But first I’m going to reread Oryx and Crake.

fifty-nine.

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood (1972)

A young woman goes back to the remote community in Quebec where she grew up to look for her father who has gone missing. She brings with her her boyfriend, Joe, and an other couple, David and Anna. She hasn’t been back for years but nothing much has changed on the desolate island where just her family lived.

Going back opens a lot of wounds. The fact that she has been married before and carried a child places a strain on the current relationship. David and Anna have their own problems which surface during the stay on the remote island. The search for the father is unsuccessful and towards the end of their stay she goes feral.

This is one of those slow-reading book as there’s much to absorb from each sentence. Reading it was easy in the beginning, but unfortunately for me, I quickened the pace as it got more exciting which made it a lot harder to understand. And then it was too late and I understood nothing towards the end. I had to google it after to check if I had missing out on something (so much easier than rereading the book), and after reading this, I got a little wiser, but still have some questions.

Fourth Atwood, and yes, she is a great read, but not the easiest. I read Oryx and Crake years ago, and there the confusion was at the beginning, but once I got through many pages I understood more and more. Cat’s Eye is one hell of a book, and the Robber Bride was also good. I’m glad there are many other books by Atwood to figure out.