Thank you Adam for this review. I must concur with almost everything you write. I was hoping for much more from the book, too, after all the hype. I enjoyed it but did a little bit of page skipping (red faced) rolled my eyes, too and could willingly have taken out at least 200 pages!!
Adam – I was excited to read this book as I had heard very good things about it. It didn’t live up to my expectations. In fact, my feelings towards the book are not only varied but also extreme.
My favourite thing about the book was how much it reminded me of Charles Dickens. An interesting protagonist experiencing the world and learning lessons – it sounds like most books but I really felt a Dickensian inspiration at times. Theo travels around the world, meeting odd characters and lives his life in a murky, grey morality. It’s fascinating at times. And it helps that quite a few times during my reading, I actually thought the word “wow” in regards to the writing. Theo’s final monologue/epiphany in the novel is, for the most part, excellently written.
But then there are the problem areas. And they are whopping. This may be the most pretentiously written book I have ever read. While I said some parts of the book are well-written, about 75% of it is complete nonsense. Detailed descriptions of vague and often intangible things (such as drug-fuelled dreams) seem to only serve to fill pages. The amount of times I rolled my eyes is staggering. I was reminded often of American Psycho – another novel with a good plot but horrific levels of item description. I also don’t feel that the painting itself was anything other than a MacGuffin – an item with no other purpose than to actually further the plot. Theo vaguely mentions towards the end that Welty Blackwell encouraged his thievery for a reason (which I won’t reveal here for spoiler reasons) but I found this explanation wholly unsatisfying.
This review may sound more negative than positive but I did like the book. I just thought the flaws were massive. I can also admit that the reference to Dragon Ball Z, one of my favourite tv shows of all time and staple of my adolescence, made me a tiny bit less critical of the book!
3 out of 5.
Thanks Adam Such a shame we didn’t have this article from Vanity Fair at hand during the meeing. It’s a great read!!
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This was a BIG favourite of us all in Book Club! Great book!! Joan is going to re-read it as her perspective of the story was different from others but isn’t that the joy of a group of people getting together after reading the same written piece of work? Different views, different ideas; some love it some hate it, can take it or leave it! I love Book Club.
And now over to Adam. He is the review writer for this book. Once again, please get involved and write your comments on this book. Thank you.
Adam – I wasn’t expecting much from this book. The title put me off a bit. It’s a longwinded title but it does suit the story – a tale of lies, love, murder and ambition that spirals almost endlessly. Every question raised is answered eventually…..but only after another 3 questions have been created! The plot is labyrinthine and I found almost every character to be worthy of my suspicion. Who killed Nola Kellergan? I can imagine any of them doing it! The characters were well-written and relatable – but after reading so many books and seeing so many films, I knew the killer would be low on my suspect list. The book makes it clear that a certain character is the killer…..but then is revealed as a red herring. And this occurs a few times. Utterly wonderful storytelling technique. The protagonist is excellent – flawed and, let’s be honest, a bit of a jerk, but i still wanted his investigation (and writing career) to succeed. Harry, too, is a brilliant character – the Yoda to Marcus’ Padawan Luke – and acts as a mentor, friend and even a saboteur. But the star of the novel is Nola Kellergan. Many questions are raised regarding age of consent, what love actually is and even the eternal war between the heart and the brain – all due to Nola. Nola herself is a magnet – receiving adoration from the whole town of Somerset, bordering on idolatry. The fifteen year-old is a character of such complication and delight – beautiful but tormented. During an interaction in the novel between Marcus and his assistant, Denise, this discussion occurs:
“…that young girl, that Nola. I think i love her too”. I smiled and said “I think everyone loved her, Denise. Everyone.”
For me, these short few lines sum up the entire book and Nola herself. Everybody loved Nola Kellergan. I think i loved her too.
For me, personally, this is my Book of the Year 2016. I know it was technically released in 2012 originally and 2014 in English for the first time but I don’t care. It’s the best thing I read in 2016.
AND there’s going to be a film/mini-series. Read here for more info!! Ooooooo. Excited!!
This is our next Book Club read. I haven’t finished it yet but Kate has and this is what she has to say about it.
As usual, we look forward to hearing from you, too, so please leave your comments on our page. This is great fodder for our Book Club evenings. You become an integral, virtual part of the meeting, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you.
Oh wow! What a book; I’ll be thinking about this extraordinary story long after I’ve finished reading it. Grim, disturbing, shocking, menacing I had a horrible sense of foreboding every time I picked it up wondering what harrowing circumstances those poor people would have to further endure and the ending just created more unanswered questions and left you wondering about possible scenarios on so many different levels. I couldn’t put it down though; this will be hard to beat and it kept me gripped from start to finish; it will be hard to find a book equally as enthralling for a future read.
The book describes a dystopian world where many women have been left barren by nuclear toxicity in an area of North America named Gilead; consequently the new regime forces fertile women to live with the families of high ranking officials in order to provide babies for the elite. It is a terrifying world where women’s rights have been taken away from them, for example it is a crime for them to read and write; the handmaids are under the jurisdiction of the ferocious aunts who seem to take pleasure in subjugating their charges by torturing and punishing them for every minor misdemeanour with their inhumane cattle prod.
I loved the symbolism of the book with the handmaids clothed as demure Quakers in long dresses complete with white winged hats which restricted their viewing; yet the dresses were scarlet as opposed to the Marthas attired in brown and the high ranking wives decked in blue; are the handmaids dressed in red because in man’s Utopian world he has a vision/ fantasy of women with the subservience and obedience of a Quaker but the sexuality of a scarlet woman? The wives and aunts had control over the handmaids who all lived in fear of being shipped to the colonies where victims there were forced to clear up toxic waste without the benefit of any protective clothing whatsoever which led to their cruel and painful deaths within a few short years. All communities lived in terror and dread of the secret, sinister eyes who covertly spied upon the population ready to pick up offenders in their menacing black vans to steal them away to some unspeakable end.
The disturbing ending raised more questions than it answered although some clues are provided in the historical notes which provides further food for thought on the terrifying issues evoked. One thought Offred gave voice to remains chillingly in my head; she stated how humans accept and adapt so quickly and easily to changes in circumstances no matter how bad or wrong those circumstances are. I will finish now for fear of giving too much of the plot away but what a brilliant book, I will be thinking about this for a very long time.
‘We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.
We lived in the gaps between the stories.’
Reviews to come but we would love to hear what you have to say about this book. In the meantime, here is a clip of the film. It was a good adaptation, but nothing beats the book!