Publisher: Bloomsbury

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

Posted July 24, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 2 Comments

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel VásquezTitle: The Sound of Things Falling (Goodreads)
Author: Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Translator: Anne McLean
Published: Bloomsbury, 2011
Pages: 298
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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I have been meaning to try some Juan Gabriel Vásquez for some times now, he seemed like the type of author I like. The Sound of Things Falling has been the one that was repeatedly recommended to me so it seemed like the perfect place to start. The novel is narrated by law professor Antonio Yammara, who explores the past and present state of Colombia and the effects Pablo Escobar and the drug trade has had on the country. However this is more of a personal journey as well, looking at how it has affected his life, from the loss of friends, the injuries received from being shot, and a broken marriage.

What really stuck out to me is the way Vásquez uses memory as a method of developing the character as well as examining the state of Colombia. The memories play a key role in this novel, as it is closely tied to Antonio Yammara’s own post-traumatic stress disorder. This was so well executed that auditory memory is worked into the narrative so effortlessly. It is hard to find examples where auditory memory is written so well, I find it often comes off as clunky and really breaks up the narrative. In The Sound of Things Falling the relationship between memory and trauma is masterfully done.

I cannot say I knew much about the history of Colombia. Pablo Escobar is such a notorious figure, but the impact on the country was all new to me. I have not seen Narcos, but after reading this novel I feel like I should. I appreciate the way Juan Gabriel Vásquez took elements of Colombian history that outsiders are aware of and then used the personal approach to examine the lasting effects. I have to wonder how much of this novel was auto-biographical. I know Vásquez studied law, but do not know much else about him.

Interesting enough while Juan Gabriel Vásquez does consider Gabriel García Márquez an influence on his writing, The Sound of Things Falling has no magical realism in it at all. I like to compare it more to the style of Roberto Bolaño as it is more hyperrealism, although with a disproportionate focus on the violence of Colombian history. I know this comparison does not quite work as Bolaño has used elements of magical realism more than this novel but I am thinking more in the style and feel of The Savage Detectives.

I have spent a lot of time reading Latin American literature this year and I must say, this may be a new obsession for me. I like the gritty nature, mixed with the historical turmoil. It reminds me of Russian literature but with more of a darker style. Reading fiction that looks at the effects of political mismanagement is something that I am interested in and I like the style of Latin American writing, it reminds me more of the pulp writing of 1920s North America. Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s latest book to be translated into English, The Shape of the Ruins is waiting for me at the library so I shall see if I have discovered a new favourite author.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Posted February 12, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Lincoln in the Bardo by George SaundersTitle: Lincoln in the Bardo (Goodreads)
Author: George Saunders
Published: Bloomsbury, 2017
Pages: 343
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

George Saunders’ long awaited debut novel has been surrounded by hype, and winning the Man Booker prize only helped to launch this book. Saunders is probably best known for his short stories that often share a vibe similar to the television show Black Mirror. I even called his last collection Tenth of December “contemporary witty, with an element of darkness”. Even comparing it to two other great collections that were released about the same time, Black Vodka by Deborah Levy and Revenge by Yōko Ogawa. Lincoln in the Bardo tells the story of Abraham Lincoln in 1862. The Civil War has been raging for almost a year while the President’s eleven year old son lies in bed gravely ill. Despite the predictions of a full recovery, Willie dies and his body is laid to read in a Georgetown cemetery.

Blending historical data collected while researching this novel, George Saunders blends in a narrative of the afterlife and grief. While the title suggest that Willie Lincoln is in the bardo, the narrative seems to fit more with purgatory. In some schools of Buddhism, bardo is known as the state of existence between death and rebirth, while purgatory is a state of purification before heading to heaven. This distinction is interesting as the characters in this limbo often are unwilling to let go of their physical remains and complete their journey into the afterlife. These characters are often faced with deformities representative of their mortal failures. Saunders does consider himself a student of Nyingma Buddhism but my understanding of theology is primarily Christian, so I tend to interpret the writing with that thought in mind.

The other part of this novel is set around the President and his family as they grieve the loss of Willie. It is here we see a lot of the historical documentation come into play. This includes excerpts from newspapers and biographies. This serves to drive the narrative of grief but also highlights the inconsistencies found in history. What made this book so appealing was the confliction in Abraham Lincoln. While grieving the loss of his own son, he was still responsible for the loss of so many others because of the Civil War. While the American Civil war may have led to many good things, the effects of war were truly felt throughout Lincoln in the Bardo.

The novel is told through different speeches; a narrative that closely resembles a play. This is what makes the audiobook such an alluring option. The publisher put a lot of effort in producing, with a cast of 166 voice actors, including Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Rainn Wilson, Susan Sarandon and George Saunders. I was worried that between the narrative style and the large cast, this would be too much of a gimmick but I think Saunders and the audiobook production managed to never go overboard. However I can understand why this would not work for some readers.

The end result of Lincoln in the Bardo was a dark comedy, ghost story and while I was a little worried (because of all the hype) I am glad my book club made me read this novel. At the moment I prefer George Saunders’ short stories but I can only compare Lincoln in the Bardo with Tenth of December. It does make me curious to try CivilWarLand in Bad Decline or Pastoralia. I know in the future Saunders will continue to be surrounded by hype but I am still interested to see what is next for this author.

The Whites by Harry Brandt

Posted February 11, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 1 Comment

The Whites by Harry BrandtTitle: The Whites (Goodreads)
Author: Harry Brandt
Published: Bloomsbury, 2015
Pages: 333
My Copy: Library Book

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In the mid-90s, Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of a special anti-crime unit. He made headlines when he accidently shot a ten year old boy, emotionally scarring Billy and damaging his career.  Eighteen years later, Billy has finally become a sergeant in Manhattan Night Watch. The Whites follows the life as Billy Graves as he gets a 4:00 am slashing of a man at Penn Station. However The Whites is much more than a police procedural, rather it covers the life of the people in working the night watch.

Harry Brandt is a pseudonym of crime writer Richard Price who has been acclaimed for his books, like Clockers. He adopted the pseudonym so he could explore his writing in a new direction. However, I have heard that the writing style turned out to be very similar to his other stuff. I have not read anything by Richard Price, but hearing it is similar I hope to pick up Clockers in the future.

What I think stands The Whites apart from a typical police procedural is the fact that Richard Price focuses mainly on the character development. I love exploring the lives of people working in a similar field and how the people are effected in different ways. Sure, Billy Graves is the primary focus and there is a great deal to do with the crime but Price really did a good job of not making this a typical crime novel.

The Whites is a fascinating read and the style of book I look for in police procedurals. The novel even made the Tournament of Books list, but I do not expect it to make it too far. It was a wonderful book but not something I would consider high literature. If you have some recommendations of other books similar to this, please let me know.

Young Romantics by Daisy Hay

Posted May 21, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

Young Romantics by Daisy HayTitle: Young Romantics (Goodreads)
Author: Daisy Hay
Published: Bloomsbury, 2010
Pages: 384
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

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The Romantics have been a huge part of my life; if it wasn’t for them I may never have become a reader. Problem is, I don’t know much about their lives so I have set out to learn more. Young Romantics by Daisy Hay tells the basic story of their lives, but with the subtitle The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives you can be sure it will be heavily focused on Mary and Claire.

This is not necessarily a bad thing; Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont were fascinating people, however this seems to be the primary focus of more biographies. I was a little surprised when Daisy Hay spends so little time on that fateful time in Geneva that birthed Frankenstein but I assume that she deliberately glossed over that story assuming everyone was aware of it anyway.

Young Romantics did something I didn’t expect and that was spending a lot of time talking about the Hunt brothers. I knew they played a big part in literature at the time and that in context to the Romantics it is relevant information. However I never viewed them as Romantics and often over looked learning about them. This is a mistake on my behalf; the role the Hunts played in the Romantic Movement is an essential part in dealing with context. I might not consider them Romantics but they were there shaping the literary world along side them.

Having discovered a new interest in non-fiction I find myself wanting to read more biographies. While I have a great interest in the Romantics, I found that Young Romantics works to create a basic understanding of their lives. You get a quick overview of the lives of the Shelleys and the Hunts. Unfortunately there isn’t much to do with Lord Byron and even less to do with the others. I would have loved to read more about Keats but he only got a brief look in.

I plan to read more biographies about a range of different authors but I’m sure there will be plenty on the Romantics. I like Young Romantics for the broad strokes approach it took on the Romantics. I learnt a lot from this book but I’m sure people with a great knowledge would have been a little disappointed with it. I think if you have a passing interest in the Romantics this might be the perfect choice.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Posted May 17, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 4 Comments

My Salinger Year by Joanna RakoffTitle: My Salinger Year (Goodreads)
Author: Joanna Rakoff
Published: Bloomsbury Circus, 2014
Pages: 272
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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When Joanna Rakoff takes her first bookish job for a New York literary agency in 1996 it was like stepping back in time. As an office girl, her job was to type up correspondences, answer the phones and whatever else needed to be done. However there was one strict rule, ‘never give out Jerry’s address or phone number’. Given the time she automatically thought Jerry Seinfeld but soon learned that the Jerry they were referring to was J.D. Salinger.

This memoir is a unique look at not only at how old-fashion the publishing world can be but at J.D. Salinger himself. Joanna Rakoff takes an almost outside view at Salinger as she spends time responding to all of the iconic author’s correspondences. Salinger is an author that has cut himself off from the world and Joanna had to inform all correspondences that their requests cannot be fulfilled; J.D. doesn’t give interviews and doesn’t want to read any of the mail.

My Salinger Year reminded me of Mad Men; while this was a memoir, the whole literary agency was like stepping into the past. The publishing world was running like they are still in the 1960’s, which gave this memoir both a quirky feel to it and exposes the reality of just how old-fashioned this industry can be. Then you have Joanna’s life outside her job, which reminds me very much of the New York literary scene that I love to read about, full of intellectuals, pseudo intellectuals and bohemian socialists. This scene is a lot of fun to read about; these are my kind of people and one of the reasons I read books about this literary scene.

Not only is there the memoir but also there is an element of literary criticism as a selection of books are analysed and discussed within the pages of this book. This changes things up slightly and I found it interesting to explore the works of Salinger in this kind of detail. I never really enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye when I read it but I struggle to find a reason for that. Holden was an unlikeable character that is always complaining about everything but this is not a reason to dislike the book. I’m always standing up for books with unlikeable characters, I feel like I may have misjudged the novel. Now that I have some more experience in critical reading I may need to pick up The Catcher in the Rye one more time.

Even if I don’t reread The Catcher in the Rye, I’m interested in the life of J.D. Salinger and will pick up a biography of this iconic author. I know there was a biopic/documentary about Salinger as well; I might have to check it out. He has really peaked my interest; the reclusiveness and introversion makes for a fascinating person. My Salinger Year is an interesting journey into the publishing world, the New York City literary scene and J.D. Salinger; I enjoyed reading this memoir and recommend anyone interested in these topics to check it out.

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit

Posted May 9, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 2 Comments

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea NesbitTitle: The Wives of Los Alamos (Goodreads)
Author: TaraShea Nebit
Published: Bloomsbury, 2014
Pages: 240
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

It wasn’t until the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 that the Americans really got involved in the Second World War and they did this in a big way. It was often referred to as Project Y, a secret laboratory that sourced scientist from all over the country to help the allies in their war efforts. The Laboratory was located in Los Alamos, New Mexico and the secret project was The Manhattan Project.

TaraShea Nebit’s debut novel The Wives of Los Alamos explores the birth of the atomic age. Although many may have wondered what it was like for the wives of these scientist. The secrets their husbands had to keep and somehow convince their wives and families to move to an undisclosed location. If we took the time and really thought about what it would have been like, we might have come up with the same answers as Nebit.

However TaraShea Nebit did the research (resources used are mentioned at the end of the novel) and then set out to write this unique novel. The Wives of Los Alamos is written in the collective voice of the wives of Los Alamos, which takes a while to get used to. The plural first person perspective is rather odd and it tends to keep the reader at arm’s length and never really allows an intimate look at the feelings these women must have been going through. With lines like “We married men just like our fathers, or nothing like them, or only the best parts.“ I get the sense that the author is generalising the feelings and while I appreciate the research she did, this type of writing feels more like speculation rather steaming from truth.

I find it difficult to review this novel, there is no protagonist and the plot is a very basic look at different aspects of life set out to drive the book along. TaraShea Nebit is very clever and the novel pushes the reader to actually imagine what life would be like for these families. In a time where everyone is concerned with war these families are uprooted and forced to live with a completely different sets of worries in mind. Secrecy can tear families apart and the importance of The Manhattan Project demands that this secret be kept. I can’t imagine a life like this but The Wives of Los Alamos offers some idea.

I found it difficult to connect with the women in the story, they were nameless and faceless. Their collective voices all sang the same tune but really people are not all the same that I never got a look into the emotions and thoughts of just one of the women. A biography from one of these women would have been better; The Wives of Los Alamos gives you a taste but left me wanting so much more.

This was a fascinating novel but it never went into any great detail of the social complexities facing these families. I would have liked to explore the psychological effects this great secret had on the family and relatives. Even have a peek into the cultural effects of birth of the atomic age, considering the Los Alamos National Laboratory played key roles in both the Atom and Hydrogen bomb. It is a fascinating period of American history and science, The Wives of Los Alamos has whet my appetite and I might look at some of the books TaraShea Nebit mentioned at the end.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Posted March 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Literary Fiction / 6 Comments

Middlesex by Jeffrey EugenidesTitle: Middlesex (Goodreads)
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Published: Bloomsbury, 2002
Pages: 529
Genres: Literary Fiction
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When Jeffrey Eugenides set out to write Middlesex he wanted to “[tell] epic events in the third person and psychosexual events in the first person”. He had decided that the voice “had to render the experience of a teenage girl and an adult man, or an adult male-identified hermaphrodite”. This was no easy task; he had to seek expert advice about intersexuality, sexology, and the formation of gender identity. His motivation came from reading the 1980 memoir Herculine Barbin and being unsatisfied by the lack of detail about intersex anatomy and his emotions.

”I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

If you’ve read Jeffrey Eugenides before you will know he doesn’t just stop at one issue, Middlesex is also loosely based on his life and is used to explore his Greek Heritage. While the book’s main protagonist is Cal Stephanides, Middlesex is a family saga that explores the impact of a mutated gene over three generations. Starting with Cal’s grandparents, the novel looks at their escape from the ongoing Greco-Turkish War and emigrating from Smyrna in Asia Minor to the United States. This section has similar themes to most immigration stories, looking at Greek and US culture in the 1920’s as well as their efforts to assimilate into American society. However this is overshadowed by the fact that Cal’s grandparents are also brother and sister.

Middlesex continues to follow the Stephanides family through the story of Cal’s parents and eventually his life. While the reader gets glimpses of Cal’s life throughout the novel, the last part is where we really explore how the 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (a recessive condition that caused him to be born with female characteristics) impacted his life. While I got the impression that this was the main focus of the novel and to some extent it is, I was expecting to explore the struggle and emotions behind his condition to a greater extent.

Jeffrey Eugenides has a lot going on his novels and you really need to be a literary critic to enjoy Middlesex to the full extent. I love Eugenides because he is too smart for his own good, on a basic level you can enjoy his novels but there is so much going on underneath that rereading is almost essential. Middlesex is a family saga but there are elements of romance, history, coming of age and, because of his Greek heritage, tragicomedy. You could spend hours exploring the hysterical realism and metafictional aspects from this book. For example; does Cal’s condition have any bearing on where he is narrating this novel from? Berlin, a city that also was divided into two (East and West). Also, why does the narrative style switch between first and third person? Some parts of the story are told in first person but Cal would never have been able to recount what happened in that kind of detail. Is this to evoke confusion within the reader, forcing them to just feel a fraction of what Cal must be feeling?

This is an incredibly complex novel and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what Jeffrey Eugenides has done. This is in fact the third of his novels I’ve read and sadly that is all of them for now. While I did enjoy Middlesex I found more joy from The Virgin Suicides (which deals with suicide) and The Marriage Plot (dealing with mental illness). I really appreciate the themes Eugenides explores and the complexities of his novels, but personal opinion is going against the norm here. Middlesex is probably his most recognised novel; it even won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Don’t let the complexity of Middlesex put you off reading this fantastic novel; sure, there is a lot there but it still worth picking up. You can spend as much time as you want exploring its depths but in the end you’ll come away with something. It is a compelling read that will stay with you well after finishing it. This is the perfect type of novel to pick up for a book club.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Posted February 27, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled HosseiniTitle: And the Mountains Echoed (Goodreads)
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Published: Bloomsbury, 2013
Pages: 404
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Abdullah and Pari are close, very close; Pari idolises her older brother and there is nothing he wouldn’t do to keep he safe. But at the age of three Pari is sold to a glamorous young woman who couldn’t have children in Kabul. Without any form of goodbyes Abdullah never forgets his younger sister, but she has forgotten all about her previous life.

Khaled Hosseini sets out to explore the different ways in which families nurture; he begins this novel with a fable about a mythical creature known as the div who comes to the village and takes young children to his fort in the mountains. One day a farmer was so heartbroken of the loss of a child that he climbs the mountain to kill the div. After a brief battle with the creature the div shows him the most beautiful place the farmers ever seen and the children all happy. The div tells the farmer that he has come to test him and he has to choose what is best for his child.

I might lose some fans but I have to say it; people talk about Khaled Hosseini’s literary genius, with so much hype surrounding And the Mountains Echoed but I don’t see it. I will admit that I have not read The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns so I’m only judging his literary merits by this alone and I might be wrong. Here is my thoughts based on only this book; he is a great storyteller but he is no writer of literary fiction, in fact I think he still has some work to do, before I would consider him a good writer and I don’t think I would even class this as literary fiction.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading this novel but I was expecting literary fiction and I was disappointed I didn’t get it. I was also reading the most wonderful novel at the same time, which actually covers similar themes and plot points. So I continually compared this novel with the other and when you are facing off against A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, it really had no hope in winning. The story was nice and I found myself racing though the book but all the time I wanted to go back to A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.

Well well go and play till the light fades away
And then go home to bed
The little ones leaped and shouted and laugh’d
And all the hills ecchoed.

The title of the book comes from a William Blake poem called Nurse’s Song (I have no idea why Blake spells echoed with a double c but if you have any insights on that I would love to know) which feels fitting to the book. I think of Abdullah as the nurse who wants to protect but Pari is off having a good time (a far better life) and I’m not good at interpreting poetry but I think that’s where the analogy ends. There is the moral and ethical dilemma here about Pari, is she better off with the rich family or with her brother and family struggling.

As far as I can see this was a great story and I would read Khaled Hosseini again; I am curious to compare this to his other two books. I just think this is just great storytelling with a moral but there is nothing to make this stand out and think this is literature. In fact none of the characters or plot was so memorable, so when it came to talking about this book in book club I struggled to remember the plot and characters and I only finished it the day before.

At times I felt this book was a little staged and forced and I finished the book not learning anything about Afghanistan and the life of the people living there, so I felt disappointed. I know of offended people on the Khaled Hosseini bandwagon but sadly I just didn’t get into it. I liked the book but there is no lasting impression left on me and since I was reading a book that will easily be in my top five  books of 2013 at the same time, I think that really gave me a negative opinion towards And the Mountains Echoed. This is the type of book you take to the beach or on holidays for a mindless but enjoyable story, there is nothing really else there.

Maddaddam by Margret Atwood

Posted December 23, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 2 Comments

Maddaddam by Margret AtwoodTitle: Maddaddam (Goodreads)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Series: Maddaddam #3
Published: Bloomsbury, 2013
Pages: 416
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

A man-made plague has swept across the earth and wiped out most of humanity. Few survived, along with the Crakers (a new bio-engineered species). There may not be much hope for humans to survive but the Crakers have a chance. Toby and Zeb tell the story of just what happens next, in the conclusion of this great epic post-apocalyptic trilogy.

This is the final instalment in the Maddaddam story; a trilogy that I binge read over the past few months. Just a quick recap; Oryx and Crake tell the story of these two as well as Snowman, the destruction of the world and the creation of the Crakers. At the same time The Year of the Flood tells the story of Toby and The Gardeners (a religious cult). Those two books run in parallel and lead us to Maddaddam, where the two stories meet.

I’m not too sure how I feel about the final novel in this trilogy. On one hand this is a rather upbeat finale that ties everything up into a nice little bow and on the other, I much prefer bleak and I feel this novel was unnecessary. Not to say it was bad but both Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood worked well as standalone novels, they both interconnect but you could probably read one or the other without confusion. When it comes to Maddaddam you really do need to have read the first two books, there is a “previously on the Maddaddam trilogy” moment at the start of the book but this is a novel to fill in the gaps. I don’t mind gaps, I like leaving questions unanswered but I can understand why Margret Atwood would choose to wrap things up.

Maddaddam is a novel about renewal Oryx and Crake focuses on the destructive nature of science, and The Year of the Flood looked at religious fanaticism; I’m a little surprised this book was more positive. Atwood writes really thought provoking novels and Maddaddam is no different, though this does feel more optimistic. This novel focuses heavily on science and politics, two of Margret Atwood’s favourite topics and she does leave the reader with plenty to think about.

One thing I found in this novel that surprised me was the dark humour; I don’t remember Oryx and Crake or The Year of the Flood being this funny. The dark post-apocalyptic themes were evident within this book, I was just thrown by the outlook and ending; it felt almost joyous. In the end it did wrap up the series in a nice way, despite my feelings toward this novel, it was a great read and the whole series is worth checking out.

The Year of the Flood by Margret Atwood

Posted October 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

The Year of the Flood by Margret AtwoodTitle: The Year of The Flood (Goodreads)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Series: Maddaddam #2
Narrator: Lorelei King
Published: Bloomsbury, 2009
Pages: 434
Genres: Dystopia, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Year of the Flood follows the lives of two characters, Toby and Ren. Toby is a young woman who lost her family and the corporations are to blame. She is forced work in a burger chain you would never want to eat at, that was until she met the Gardeners. Ren grows up working in a sex club called Scales and Tails. She previously dated Jimmy (Snowman) and found herself locked in bio-containment when the pandemic happened.

This is the second book in the Maddaddam trilogy and happens simultaneously to Oryx and Crake (for the most part). While book one jumped between the dystopian corporations-controlled world and after the pandemic, The Year of the Flood is more linear and set mainly in the pre-apocalyptic world. While it isn’t really necessary to read Oryx and Crake first, I think the majority of the world building was done in the first book leaving this one more open to focus on the characters and plot.

I will admit I loved the way Oryx and Crake portrayed the corporations dystopian world I love so much but I think The Year of the Flood was overall a better novel. I liked the characters more and the portrayal of a religious cult was fascinating. Margret Atwood seems to draw a lot on personal religious experiences and then build on that to create this cult. I’ve been in plenty of churches, have met many religious fanatics and it really feels like Atwood has too.

She even took the religious element one step further by adding 14 hymns; even during her book promotions and on the audio book they have performances of these hymns. I think Atwood managed to balance religious fanaticism and hostile corporation practises just right in the novel. Both never felt overpowering and allowed for character and plot development to take the foreground.

The more I read of Atwood the more I am in awe of her brilliance. I remember reading The Handmaids Tale and never really thought too much of it but now I that I know her style and the messages she wants to get across, I feel like I should try that book again. There are some other Atwood books I want to try as well so they might have to come first.

I’m entrenched in the Maddaddam world and looking forward to reading the final novel in the trilogy. Luckily I have the book on my shelf waiting and I probably read it soon. I don’t normally read a series (or the same author) so close together but I was sucked in and needed more from this world. Fans of both post apocalyptic and dystopian novels should check out the Maddaddam trilogy, there are some interesting themes through the first two books and I’m sure it will continue in book three.