While I read this book, I kept wondering to myself in astonishment, “Why do I ever bother to try reading anything that isn’t a perfect classic, writteWhile I read this book, I kept wondering to myself in astonishment, “Why do I ever bother to try reading anything that isn’t a perfect classic, written by a beloved author and vetted by generations of awed readers? Why have I wasted my life reading anything else??”
Lizzie, calm down, I’ll tell you why, and it’s that time you read Moby-Dick, okay?
Okay. That’s true, but I did have a spectacular, thrilling time reading this one, and it was a little like falling in love with novels again. It just does it right. I only chose to read it because I wanted badly to show up for a book club that is mostly made up of people who don’t have one-year-olds at home, and so feel selecting 600-page classics is NBD, and when I started those first few pages describing the real estate prospecting of the conquistadors, I began to quietly panic.
However! It is so easy to read (after that). It’s pleasurable and swift and sharp, and I carved out as much time to read as I could because I enjoyed it so greatly. I wanted to sit back and let Steinbeck do his thing. He wanted to build a valley palace out of pure allegory and by god it’s what he did. It’s not that this is never clunky or unnecessary, it’s that he’s just so good at it I did not care.
Let’s tell the truth. I mostly wanted to keep reading about Cathy. When was she going to turn up again and what would she do next? She’s scary and fresh like glimmering broken glass and I loved it. Adam, by contrast, is a dusty tumbleweed whom you can occasionally forget is there. Which is not immensely strong for a hero of an epic allegorical novel, especially not when his foil is so exquisitely odd and glorious. But they are both carefully put in their places and given plentiful, curious side characters to deal with, and we get to watch their mechanism tick along til it’s done.
Like any 600-page book (I find), there comes a point in the last hundred when you start to wonder and check your watch once in a while. It isn’t the tightest ending I’ve ever seen, but it didn’t terribly dampen the experience.
I’m so grateful I gave this a try, and so refreshed from it. More like this please, mmmoohhhhhhhrr, as the one-year-old who keeps me from reading very many of these would say, if it were a pack of raisins....more
This isn't a bad book but it really isn't my cup of tea. I gave it the old book-club try but as soon as I read the flap I figured I might be in troublThis isn't a bad book but it really isn't my cup of tea. I gave it the old book-club try but as soon as I read the flap I figured I might be in trouble.
I have no context for other speculative stories of "What if it were women who had all the power and abused society?" but I'm aware they exist, probably mostly deep in genre and drenched in stereotype. The author is trying to rescue that context from itself, here, and I observe that and respect it. This book was inspired by a desire to stop seeing women used like idiots, basically, and that's great except I don't think the book is… profoundly anti-idiotic. This is a story that sets out its premise and then delivers and delivers and that's good but it doesn't transcend, not for me.
It's the framing device that really killed it in my view, although it's necessary for the big ending to pack any sort of punch (which, in my feeling, it lacked anyway). I appreciated the little twist given to it at the end, but I confess it took me a while to see what she did there. Perhaps because I uh, didn't expect anything too clever by that point. But it is! So there's that.
It's very exciting for this book to snag press calling it "Atwoodian" and to have the punny blurb from Atwood herself on the cover, but in my humble, I wouldn't let that be the thing that sways you into deciding it's worth your read. It's just press and a blurb, really. It was fun enough to read but I didn't find it artful or unique or literary, and those are qualities I go to Atwood to find.
You know what this book made me think of the most and that is the very end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All I could wonder was why nothing here made me feel one tiny bit of feeling compared to how this once did: