The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: A Book Review

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Along with her The Blind Assassin, this is one of the most convoluted and elaborate novels I have ever read. The story is too cloudy to understand that it requires your powers of concentration, especially if you are not analytical enough to grasp its complexity, the style I have proven Atwood bears the hallmark of.

Instead of analyzing it in a broader literary context with intellectual bravado since everyone can turn to Wikipedia, I’d rather review it in a manner of  what I found out in her writing styles: I’m envious of her skilled mastery for turning into beautiful prose her train of thoughts or whatsoever plays  in the figment of her imagination. Furthermore, she is an unfathomable female writer who can be as genius as any writers mostly celebrated in world literature.

This novel from the first pages to the last is strewn with vivid, beautiful, elegant, graceful, sumptuous sentences which I enjoyed reading rather than   gripping its main idea. The sentences are so lyrical that I chanted them again and again. They melt in my tongue like sweet, dark chocolate, or smell good like a garden,  full of a variety of colorful flowers hovered  above by a swarm of butterflies.

Under an unlikely scenario, if there were still such a world that men were superior to women over skills in writing stories or any literacy pieces, and Atwood were into such a literary show-off ,surrounded by supercilious writers looking down on her feminism, I bet my life that Atwood could dominate or catch up with them at any cost of literary bouts. Don’t dare her write one because this her The Handmaid’s Tale has proved me   wrong that there is something Atwood could make her rather genius. Her novels may appear complex, much more if she writes a simpler or more intricate one. In other words, there is nothing to find fault with her more; it’s crystal clear that she is an extraordinary writer. Roll down the red carpet and pay homage to Her Majesty.

Now, I freely  acknowledge that reading another Atwood’s books could be challenging since I have now the clearest idea of her writing style. Sometime in the future, if I have a great deal of time, perhaps when I reach my mid-life , no longer preoccupied with how to embellish my life with youthful experiences, hers would be one of those books I want to read again and again.As American musician and filmmaker, Frank Zappa put it , so many books, so little time to read.There are still thousands of  books in the world I haven’t read yet.

Also, the best course of technique I should use when I happen to read Atwood’s other books  and others books which have little resemblance to her style  would be a matter of full concentration ( regardless of  how poor my reading comprehension skill is .) Then, I will seat myself at a coffee table with a voluminous dictionary and colorful highlighters scattered around , par for the course in my reading repose. Ho-ho!

P.S . It is now being adapted for a TV series  broadcast live on  Hulu.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )

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Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson: A Book Review

 

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Reading another Marilynne Robinson’s work is another heavenly and fulfilling achievement. Her novels are arresting because they deal with family situations, imbued with suppressed  feelings we may relate to , conveyed in unconventionally recoiling ,but  creatively poetic prose- her writing style  which turns out to be acceptable  in literature.

For me, Robinson is one of the writers I have known so far whose prose is so powerful that I could be overwhelmed with the covert feelings. No wonder I had been looking for this novel for a long time. In fact, I don’t even brush off the idea of why Gilead  has been the pandemonium among literary readers on Goodreads whenever her name is being brought up. I wish to find it at an affordable price and in pristine condition.

Since her novels Home and  Lila had a great emotional impact on me , I have found that there seems to be preternatural effects while reading her work. I am not sure of her other works, but three of hers are enough to bear witness to my delusional claim. The hidden and adamant emotions tend to ooze out despite they are coated with her unorthodox or unconventional prose. Unorthodox or unconventional prose because Robinson writes sentences beyond literary rules. Compare hers with Irish writer Colm Tóibín‘s in his impressive The Master for instance. For this reason, reading her novels may appear to be hard, heavy, nose-and-brain bleeding except her Home because I was so into it and lost track of time, the springboard for my interest in reading another Robinson works. Thus, reading her works may require a matter of multi-tasking concentration. I wonder if native speakers get what I am jabbering about.  Nevertheless, I could feel the ghostly restricted atmosphere of the story: the gloominess, the sadness, the sense of loss, the joyfulness, the hatred, the desires – all the feelings that have   been harbored for a long time because of the past that should have been left behind the presence.

Housekeeping, aside from being in the Guardian’s 1001-Best- Novels-You-Must-Read-Before-You-Die list, is included by TIME magazine as one of 100 Best English-language Novels since 1923 to 2005. Lila and Home   have been added recently by the Guardian if I am not mistaken. Comparatively and subjectively speaking, Home is my favorite. I cried over it a lot. I felt the withered or dormant emotions Robinson wanted her readers to blow up. I felt the cathartic tears flowing down my cheeks. It was a therapeutic experience. The story is psychologically realistic after all. Besides, it really reminded me of my cold conflict with my father then. However, with respect to creativity, magical mastery for writing a novel, Lila and Housekeeping stand out. They have proven Robinson’s unparalleled, incomparable writing skills- her ability to dramatically animate the story despite it is covered with bricks of “suppressible” prose, and that is something I would say Robinson’s trademark. Gotcha?

The big challenge for me next time since Robinson is known for her heavy prose is how to finish her novel. I admit that it took me a few days before I managed to finish it given that it is not that as ambitious as her other works. I was like an adventurous book traveler lost in a chimerical book land trudging through different places to reach its revealing denouement. Good grief! I made it, but the experience is not traumatic. Rather, the proverb,” The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” popped into my mind, and I mustered enough courage to do so. There it is! Eureka! Marilynne Robinson is a gifted writer, indeed, someone all literary readers should celebrate about. So, count me in!!!

Ironically, Gilead ( 2004), Home (2008), and Lila ( 2014) are supposed to be a trilogy , but I first read Home and Lila consecutively. Housekeeping is Marilynne Robinson’s first novel.

When I reviewed Robinson’s Home before, I predicted that she would belong to my roller or  walk of favorite writers. It was like letting her first pass through the hole of my needle before she meets my standard. Taray! (laughs) However, after reading her Lila, her application for that is still pending. (Figuratively laughing) To put it bluntly, I have aversion to reading books dealing with religious convictions no matter how good they are. Apparently, most of Robinson’s novels are steeped in religion or faith. Who won’t forget Rev. James and Rev. Boughton? Ok fine! I am biased! (laughs) Nevertheless, Housekeeping is another stepping stone for me to explore Robinson’s great mind. I have learned that there is no such a perfectly standardized novel. What matters most is the deep connection between a reader and a story, and that’s something I will learn to practice on my writing styles. As what Virginia Woolf put it, “ A book has a soul.”

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)