The Handmaid’s Tale

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I read this novel many years ago, and after reading it once again, I found it to be even more relevant in today’s political climate.

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a horrifying dystopian account of what life would be under repressive, rightwing fundamentalists who have taken over the government. Atwood’s writing is sparse, but elegant. In this world, women are disenfranchised, indoctrinated and controlled by watchers. The fictional Gilead, the new republic, endeavors to supplant the population with white only children. Women of childbearing age are farmed out as breeders to the Republic’s Elite Commanders who, under direct supervision, have sexual intercourse with the women after a Bible reading ceremony.

The narrator, Offred, meaning she is of Fred, who is her commander, remembers her life from before in various flashbacks throughout the novel. She had been the mother of a daughter and married to a man she loved. They tried to escape, but were captured and separated. Offred never learns what happened to them. Many Handmaids commit suicide, and Offred considers it.

Subversives, academics and non-whites are summarily tortured and garroted on walls that had once been academic institutions. Women must be subservient to their husbands in all matters and beatings by men are allowed. Books and magazines are burned. Women are not allowed to read. The written word is replaced by pictures as to not tempt women to read or learn how to read.

The ending is ambiguous, though there is the possibility that Offred escaped via a network of Quakers.

A couple of centuries forward during a consortium, a professor of history plays 30 tapes by one woman who describes what she endured during those terrible times. It is assumed to be Offred.

This novel is both fascinating and horrifying. Fear and revulsion of others is a slippery slope and one that leads to Authoritarianism, reminiscent of the Nazi’s. Freedom for all must be carefully guarded. I highly recommend this novel.

The Sun is Also a Star

Sun is a starAuthor, Nicola Yoon’s storytelling is unique in that she uses multiple POV’s and does so successfully. Most of the story takes place in one day. The two major protagonists, Natasha and Daniel, are both on their way to appointments. Natasha to the immigration office and Daniel on his way to a college interview.  They meet on a sidewalk in Manhattan and this is where their stories converge.

Natasha and her family are due to be deported from the US to Jamaica in a matter of hours. Natasha and her family have been in the America since Natasha was 10 years old.  America is her home and she’s about to graduate from high school.  She’s desperate to stay in America.

Daniel’s family are Korean immigrants, but they are documented citizens. Daniel’s family wants him to go to Yale and become a Doctor, but he’d rather be a poet. Still, as a good son, he will follow his family’s wishes.

Daniel is immediately attracted to Natasha and he pursues her through a series of happenstances and they spend the day together. Their meeting seems impactful to both of them and the reader will want a happy resolution, but that is not life, though all is not lost. Both take something meaningful away from their encounter, something they will never forget.

Even if life is not fair, fate, fickle as it is, construes for them to connect again in the far future. The rest is left to the readers’ imagination.

Nicola’s writing is excellent and the story is interesting on many levels. I enjoyed her characterization of their encounters.

The Jane Austen Project

51LGmrEPzqL__SY346_Kathleen Flynn has meticulously crafted a fine and intelligent novel about Jane Austen’s world. She has successfully melded and incorporated a realistic version of what would happen if Jane had lived to write more novels. What if future time travelers altered the course of history and Jane’s life? What if their purpose had been to merely find and retrieve a lost novel of hers, only to change the course of history?

Our protagonists, Rachel, a highly respected physician, and Liam, a well known, British actor, author and historian of sorts, are chosen to do just that.

They had prepared and trained for a year because stepping back in time, existing there as being part of that time with the specific dictates of the genders, is not an easy thing. They had to be believable and become fast friends of the Austen’s. No easy task.

No spoilers here, but for lovers of anything Austen, or of the Regency era, Kathleen Flynn succeeded on all levels. This is a wonderful novel, well written and filled with interesting details. I’m sure Austen lovers will love it as much as I did.

Strange the Dreamer

519By0NHlmL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I don’t often give 5 stars, but this fantasy novel earns every single star.
Strange the Dreamer is totally captivating. Laini Taylor has woven a magical story with lush and evocative writing and wonderful characters.
Lazlo Strange is an orphan and a dreamer. His parentage is a mystery. Saved by strict monks when he was just an infant, he lives a lonely life, but hears fantastical stories from an aged monk. Later, Lazlo serves as a junior librarian in a scholarly library. He is obsessed with the mystical city of Weep. A city lost in time until one day a hero called the Gods slayer arrives from the city of Weep and nothing will ever be the same for Lazlo. He is enlisted with others to travel to the city of Weep. The terrible Gods who ruled the city are dead, or are they? A young and beautifully blue Goddess enters Lazlo’s dreams. Her name is Sarai and she is half Goddess and half human, a God spawn. From Sarai, Lazlo learns the truth about Weep. Here Lazlo learns about love and longing and so does Sarai.
Events unfold leading to heartbreak and tragedy, but will love endure? Will love conquer all?
This is such a beautifully written novel, and I am so looking forward to the sequel.

The Edge of Everything

The EdgeZoe and her young brother, Jonah are alone in the mountains during a fierce blizzard.  Well, except for the two labs and someone, a very nasty man who wants to kill the dogs, drown them in the lake. This is where X comes in, except that’s not really his name. Where he comes from, most of the inhabitants don’t have names. Well,  at least not any longer.  Zoe names him X because that is the shape his silhouette makes against the orange light. And the orange light is coming from him.

This young adult novel is engaging and keeps the reader turning the pages. Zoe, Jonah and X are interesting characters. The story is fast paced and by the end, the reader is looking for a sequel.  I know I am.

Defy the Stars

51phu4LV+GL__SY346_Defy the Stars is a Science Fiction novel and a good one. It is fast paced and the characters are well developed.  The developing relationship between Noemi, a fighter pilot from off planet and Abel, an android who is more human than most humans, is incredibly believable and engaging.  There are no super heroes here, but both of these characters embody the best of human nature. This novel is both character driven and action driven. The best of both!

I couldn’t put this novel down. I hope the author writes a sequel and it seems there may be one.

A Piece of the World

Christina

Andrew Wyeth’s  iconic painting, Christina’s World, has always fascinated me. The image of a girl in a pale pink dress crawling through a field of grass toward a distant house on the horizon raised a number of speculations.  The answer to those speculations are answered in this wonderful piece of historical fiction. The author has painstakingly reconstructed the life of the actual Christina and her world.  Here, we also get glimpses of Andrew Wyeth, the man behind his art.

There is a fine comparison between the life of an isolated girl and that of an artist who spends hours alone with his work. But it is Christina herself who emerges as a complex woman-girl who desires love but is incapacitated by a debilitating illness. In many ways, Christina is as stubborn and as enduring as the generations old home she is irrevocably tied to.

A Piece of the World is a wonderful accounting of the life and times of Christina Olson. It is rich in detail and pathos. The reader is immediately immersed in Christina’s world, the unending labor of farm life and the heartbreaking details of thwarted love.

All in all, this is a compelling read.