Saturday, February 5, 2011

Favourite Author Focus: Margaret Atwood

I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off.

I first read The Handmaid’s Tale in one of the first English Literature units I did at university about six years ago. I would have loved this book anyway, because of its brilliance and creativity and intelligence. But getting the chance to analyse it in class and write essays on it was amazing; some books are ruined for me by analysing them but this one definitely made it even better. I’ve always been fascinated by books that are some kind of version of the future, which are not completely set outside the world we know. The Handmaid’s Tale is a scary look at the near future and my love for dystopian novels like this, Brave New World, and 1984 is ridiculously huge.

There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it.

Similar to The Handmaid’s Tale in terms of being about a version of the future, but without the feministic aspects, is Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. I only read Oryx and Crake a couple of years ago, so didn’t have the six year wait between it and its follow-up The Year of the Flood that a lot of readers had. Since The Road by Cormac McCarthy became so popular, people said a lot about the similarities between The Road and The Year of the Flood, I think largely based on the fact that they were both simply bleak versions of the future, which I never really understood. The Year of the Flood is not so much a follow-on from Oryx and Crake, but not a prequel either – but it is set in the same future as Oryx and Crake, with some of the same characters. The Year of the Flood seemed to have received some negative reviews when it was released from people who loved Oryx and Crake, but I possibly liked it even more. I felt it was more optimistic than its predecessor, if that's possible in books such as these. On a side note, I also absolutely loved the cover of the hardcover version of The Year of the Flood; I even bought it in hardcover, which I almost never do because I’m really not a hardcover fan.

Out of habit he looks at his watch — stainless-steel case, burnished aluminium band, still shiny although it no longer works. He wears it now as his only talisman. A blank face is what it shows him: zero hour. It causes a jolt of terror to run through him, this absence of official time. Nobody nowhere knows what time it is.

I have read a few other books by Margaret Atwood (such as Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin, and The Robber Bride) and loved them, but they haven’t resonated with me as much as the three novels mentioned so far. I think readers tend to either love or hate books that are written as varied versions of the future. If you love them, you’ll probably love Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novels. If you don’t, I wouldn’t read them but perhaps try her other novels. Her writing in general is incredibly original and intelligent to me, with brilliant satirical humour and creative ideas dissimilar to anyone else I’ve read.

Beware of words. Be careful what you write. Leave no trails.


  1. I'm excited to read more of her work after loving The Handmaid's Tale so much (I don't expect any of it to be THAT good in comparison, though). I already own nearly all of her books, so it's about time I got around to reading some of them. I've also read the story "Rape Fantasies" which I really enjoyed. BTW, I recently came across a paperback copy of The Year of the Flood at a thrift store for only $3, and it was signed! It just had her name scribbled rather small on the title page, so it may have been signed by her LongPen, haha.

  2. That's so cool! What cover does your copy of The Year of the Flood have?