Book Total: 8
UPDATE: I have removed my comments regarding Harry Potter following J.K. Rowling’ s transphobic comments as I no longer wish to in anyway endorse her work.
So for April I took part in Book Roast’s Magical Readathon. Setting myself a target of 12 books in a month was a bit of a stretch considering in March I only read 3, so I’m pretty proud of finishing 8!
Pleases note that in light of J.K. Rowling’ s recent comments Book Roast will no longer be hosting this readathon, but is planning something new which I am sure will be wonderful.
I’ve split this post into two so I can give an in depth review of each of the books, hopefully, without you getting bored!
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Subject: Care of Magical Creatures
I first read The Handmaid’s Tale in sixth form for A-Level English. I’ve been meaning to reread it ever since Channel 4 announced they were airing the TV series and now I finally have. I think I enjoyed it even more on this reread than I did the first time, partially due to the lack of pressure to truly understand it for my coursework and also due to my developed understanding of the political framework.
For those that haven’t read it, The Handmaid’s Tale introduces you to a dystopian world where the American government has been overthrown by a totalitarian regime that restructures society to conform to an exaggerated, old fashioned family model. High society husbands work while their wives remain at home with Marthas who help with housework and a handmaiden who carries their offspring. The story follows the fate of Offred, who is part of the first wave of Handmaiden’s. The narrative switches between Offred’s life as a Handmaiden, her past life and the path that connects the two.
Many have commented that the book seems to remain relevant despite being published 35 years ago. This is partly because the world Atwood constructs always seems only a few steps away – big steps, but not unimaginable. However, I also think it demonstrates how much more there is to achieve in sex equality, by which I mean both equality between the sexes and sexual equality. Although this is obviously an extreme depiction, it is based on an evolution of ideas that many people subscribe to today. For example the idea that women don’t enjoy sex and it is an obligation required of them. Or that a women’s role is to raise children and a family cannot be complete without them.
Atwood builds a fully formed world in which it is easy to imagine yourself within. Also, unlike other novels in which it sometimes seems contrite that you happen to be following the one person who acts against evil, Atwood includes several characters with similar outlooks to Offred. This complexity gives you a sense that you are following one of many narratives rather than a bespoke singular perspective.
Conclusion: It is not an original opinion, but I think The Handmaid’s Tale is a must read. I’m incredibly grateful that I got to read it as a young adult and I am really happy that the TV show has bought the story to a whole new audience. The first time I read this it was more of a fascinating imaginary world, while the reread helped me to see the reflections in today’s society. Consequently I am now really motivated to read more feminist writing, both fiction and non-fiction.
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Subject: Ancient Runes
I picked this up a couple of years ago in a charity shop along with Fleming’s second Bond novel Live and Let Die and wasn’t really sure what to expect, having never really read any spy books except for the Alex Rider series. I found the introduction, written by Alan Judd, really informative and thought it helped to bring an extra level of authenticity to the story, knowing Fleming’s background.
I’m going to get the misogyny out of the way right away. Some of the descriptions of women in this book from the narrator and from Bond are appalling, to the point where I had to reread lines several times, because I couldn’t believe what I’d seen. If you manage to see past Fleming’s less than satisfactory descriptions of women you can begin to appreciate his elaborate illustrations of places and clothing.
The story is well thought out and full of suspense. I found myself unable to put the book down, constantly wanting to know what happened next, even though I had already seen the movie and knew the general plot. I somewhat expected the action and pace to be impeded in comparison to the film, but I was wrong. The action is fast paced, but you still get a clear picture of the entire scene which is something I was really impressed by.
Conclusion: If you can ignore the sexism this is a really enjoyable read. I can completely understand why movie makers chose to transform Fleming’s stories into films and why these plots have remained popular ever since. The mixture of mystery, luxurious lifestyle and action make for an enthralling read that was hard to put down.
Rating: ★★★★ (This is a rating that ignores the sexism- something that I would not normally do, but I hope that the majority of people who read this will laugh at the absurdity of the misogyny rather than take it seriously, even though I don’t think that this was Fleming’s intention)