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ian

Ian's reading list 2018

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The Handmaid's tale by Margaret Atwwod

 

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now... (taken from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

I struggled with this. It is, of course, a very difficult subject matter. But I struggled anyway. I found I could only read a couple of pages at a time. Because there is so much going on, sub-text, that I found I had to take a break to consider it. The writing is beautiful. I loved how the words echo the calm, sleepy summer whilst still describing, almost without emotion, the horrific things that are being done to Offred and those around her.  I also liked how the "Commander" is drawn. Lesser writers would have made him a monster. He is, of course, but he also seems oddly small; pathetic at times. At times I felt his wife was the more monstrous of the people in the house.  The ending leaves you with more questions than answers, which was my one disappointment (at the same time knowing that this is EXACTLY how it should end). 4/5

 

Well timed as well, me reading this - I see that she has announced a sequel.

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Sorry the book was a bit of a struggle! I have it on my TBR (been there for years!). I'm glad you found the book interesting. I'll probably read it some day, when I'm really in the mood :).

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Interesting thoughts on The Handmaid's Tale Ian. I too struggled a bit but overall really liked it. I found the subject a bit too extreme, but it was so beautifully written I could forgive it that. I was undeniably hooked as I read it, and found it to be the sort of book that stays with you afterwards, which is the best kind really.

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The Other Hand - Chris Cleave

 

From the author of the international bestseller Incendiary comes a haunting novel about the tenuous friendship that blooms between two disparate strangers---one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London.

 

My Thoughts

I had to leave the review of this for a few days, as I really couldn't get my thoughts clear on this book.

 

What I liked - the author goes between an Nigerian immigrant woman voice & a middle-class English woman voice, and both those voices feel pretty authentic to me. It also manages to go between humour & pathos, sometimes in the same sentence, effortlessly. The plot is good, and highlights some important points about how we (British society) treat immigration and sometimes wilfully ignore some of the implications for our own convenience.

 

What I didn't like  - sometimes I felt that my emotions were being deliberately manipulated. I'm sure the author wanted me to be, by turns, angry or upset: it's an emotive subject that really happens in the real world, but I could feel that I was being led, which I didn't necessarily enjoy. I didn't always find some of Sarah's reactions rang true. Again, what happens is far outside of anything of my experience, so perhaps I shouldn't judge.

 

On the whole, I did enjoy this book, and I would recommend this - he's a good writer.  4/5

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I've read two more books since I was last on here.

 

Panic Room - Robert Goddard.

 

I enjoyed this, a nicely paced thriller/mystery, that was only slightly spoiled by a bit of silly ending. 4/5

 

Blowing the Bloody Doors Off - Michael Caine.

 

Michael Caine tells stories from his fascinating life, and uses them as examples of how to succeed, or cope with disappointments in "normal" life. It really is a good read, but is a bit repetitive. Still, he doesn't take himself too seriously, and he doesn't take what he's got for granted. 4/5

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I've read a couple of Robert Goddard, and found them fairly enjoyable, but if I recall correctly, they also had pretty duff endings. Must be his thing. 

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1 hour ago, Chrissy said:

I've read a couple of Robert Goddard, and found them fairly enjoyable, but if I recall correctly, they also had pretty duff endings. Must be his thing. 

 Just read the one (Set in Stone).  Fairly enjoyable is probably the right description - but not enough for me to want to read any more of his.  I remember that there were some distinct holes in the ending. It was the 'Rutland' book for the English Counties Challenge, and I think others rated it more highly. 

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I've read one Robert Goddard, Sight Unseen, but I honestly don't remember much of it (I read it about 10-15 years ago when I was a teenager). I liked it when I read it, but I don't remember much about it so many years later (other than that I liked it!).

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Yes, I must admit - I've read several Robert Goddard now, and they nearly all have slightly disappointing endings. The best of his that I've read is Sea Change, which is an historical book - I found this one the most satisfying.

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Book 42:The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

 

This isn't my usual reading material at all, but my son had read it as part of his English Lit course, and was looking for my opinion. As it's only around 150 pages long, this didn't seem like a big ask.

 

The story revolves around Tony Webster, a retired man remembering his three friends growing up at school together, particularly his more intelligent friend Adrian. They go to university and try to keep in touch, and Tony meets a girl, Veronica. The rest of the book shows the outcome, some 50 years on of the fallout from that relationship. I won't give any more away.

 

As I say - this isn't my usual sort of thing, and I found the 2 main characters annoying: Tony because he seem almost wilfully stupid about relationships, and especially women; and Veronica for never actually saying what she means, then complaining that they " just don't get it". Obviously, that's one of the points of the book, but... annoying!

 

Having said that, I can appreciate that this is a very well written book (it won the Man Booker prize 2011), and its characters and situation will stay with me a long time, I think. A good way to end this years reading. 4/5

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Ah, I read my first Robert Goddard this year and really liked it, so it's a shame to hear about the disappointing endings! (I can't remember the ending to the one I read). I'll look out for Sea Change though.

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