The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”

 

Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, is a chilling, profound and provocative look at a society thick with dystopian tropes. Atwood’s novel was published in 1985 when the religious right was on the rise, President Regan had claimed his second term in office, and the Cold War between the U.S.A and the Soviet Union was in full swing, with the threat of nuclear war ever present. Feminism was also a movement on the rise that had created a lot of tension among the people. In response to the social and political climate at the time, The Handmaid’s Tale explores what can happen when ecological issues become severe, political and religious extremism become dominant, and the structure (and laws) of a culture facilitates misogyny.

 

“A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.”

 

In this novel, America no longer exists. It has become the Republic of Gilead: a society where woman are subjugated to men. The political and religious structure of the country is run by officials, named Commanders of the Faithful; high ranking soldiers, titled Angels; secret police, named Eyes; low ranking military men, named Guardians; and ordinary workers who are the lowest strata. Woman are split into monolithic groups. The wives and daughters (of Commanders) are socially elite (among woman at least); the Aunts enforce the new laws (often brutally with cattle prongs); Marthas are women who are infertile but are considered of some use, primarily as servants; and, Econowives are low ranking woman who serves as wives and servants for the lesser men. Women who are considered even lower than these are considered invalid. Lesbians, prostitutes, adulterers, the disabled and aged get shipped off to the colonies to work until their death. The Handmaids, scarlet women both by their religiously invalidated extramarital relationships and their new social function, wear loose-fitting red dresses and white broad-winged bonnets. These clothes are designed to enforce modesty, mark them out and restrict both movement and vision, reducing their world to what they can see from between the walls of their veils. They are the fertile woman, and their only purpose is to breed. They become paired to a Commander’s household and are expected to complete “the ceremony” once every month, where they offer their body in duty and service. There is no greater blessing. Furthermore, women under no circumstance are permitted to read or write, hold no position of power or authority, have no paid jobs, and are under the complete jurisdiction of men. 

 

“I sit at the little table, eating creamed corn with a fork. I have a fork and a spoon, but never a knife. When there’s meat they cut it up for me ahead of time, as if I’m lacking manual skills or teeth. I have both, however. That’s why I’m not allowed a knife.”

 

Did I mention that woman are stripped of their name as well? Yep, they are. I get angry even thinking about it, but therein lies the power of this novel. It’s confronting and gets an emotional response. Offred, whose perspective the story is told from, belongs to a Commander named Fred, tells her tale of how she came to be where she is now. The novel follows her journey as a Handmaid, her isolation and struggles as she deals with her horrible situation while recollecting on times before the Gilead takeover, of her life before. Offred, who is never named, speaks of her husband Luke and their daughter, and how due to the world she lives in, her memory of them is slipping away. 

 

“Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.”

 

Dystopian novels are hard-hitting, controversial and can carry large themes. That in a way is what makes them such a compelling read. Is The Handmaid’s Tale a novel about feminism, for example? Well, in a way yes. Feminism is a significant theme in the book for fundamental reasons. The story highlights the potential occurrences of a society that removes the rights of women. Think about it. Can you imagine having your bank account frozen, not being able to buy food, having your marriage recognised as unlawful, your name removed, then to live the rest of your days lying on your back, legs spread, so some man you don’t know has the sacred right of impregnating you? Disgusting, isn’t it? That’s every day for Offred. Although it’s disturbing, Atwood has written this novel with lyrical prose. The story is confronting yet is written beautifully. As usual, I will not reveal what happens in the book as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I thought The Handmaid’s Tale was confronting, but I enjoyed the story. It’s thought-provoking, it challenged me to reflect on our society,  how I view myself and of course, how I see women. Yes, it is a work of fiction, but that doesn’t mean the reader can’t take away lessons from literature.

 

“The control of women and babies has been a feature of every repressive regime on the planet.” – Margaret Atwood

 

Just recently, this novel was adapted into a television series starring Elisabeth Moss. Produced by MGM/Hulu Television the adaptation does the book justice. It’s certainly worth the time watching it. Bear in mind, it is quite confronting. The series adds imagery to Atwood’s novel and shows the fallacy behind political and religious extremism. The scariest part of this story is that it asks the question, could something like this happen in our future?

Margaret Atwood recently wrote an essay published online on The New York Times webpage. She talks about the reasons why she wrote the novel and how it has been received over the past three decades. She also answers some questions that the book raises. I have posted a link below if you’re interested in checking out that essay. 

Again, thank you for reading.

M.

 

“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

Raelia by Lynette Noni – Review

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4/5 stars!

Raelia is the second book in The Medoran Chronicles by Sunshine Coast author, Lynette Noni. Published in 2016 by Pantera Press, Raelia along with the first novel, Akarnae, caused much hype among readers, young and old alike. The story follows a teenager named Alex who finds herself transported to another world – Medora. The first novel sees Alex make some difficult choices, but that’s nothing compared to what she faces in book 2. Returning for a second year at Akarnae Academy with her gifted friends, Alex finds herself in a continual battle to survive the banished Meyan prince, Aven Dalmarta. To protect the Medorans from Aven’s quest to reclaim his birthright, Alex and her friends seek out the lost Meyan city and what remains of its ancient race. Alex, who is unsure of herself, knows that if she fails to keep Aven from reaching Meya, the lives of countless Medorans will be in danger. The question then becomes, can Alex save them? And following that, in a world full of magic and wonder, how can an ordinary human girl stop one of the most powerful beings in existence? Well, you’ll have to read it, won’t you?

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Akarnae by Lynette Noni – Review

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Akarnae is the debut novel of Sunshine Coast author, Lynette Noni. It’s the first novel in The Medoran Chronicles: a five-part series. Fitting comfortably in the YA fantasy genre, Akarnae follows the story of 16-year-old Alex as her life changes dramatically. The story begins with Alex arriving at her new school. On her way to enrol, Alex finds herself stepping through a peculiar door that leads out into a forest. The door, of course, is a portal leading her to an entirely new world. Alex finds herself in Medora, which is similar to earth – but far, far cooler. Alex finds her way to Akarnae, which is a boarding school for the gifted, and learns that for some strange reason she was expected there. Not only is she to be enrolled, but she will also attend classes where she will hone her skills: both intellectual and physical. Alex soon grows fond of her new friends and new world, but strange things begin to happen at Akarnae, and Alex can’t help but fear that something unexpected is looming. Desperate to find her way back to earth, Alex learns that her only hope in getting home is through the headmaster of the school who, coincidentally, is away and not due back for some time. So, in the meantime, Alex has to stay in Medora, study at Akarnae, and continue to try to understand this strange new world.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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On a scale of one-to-ten, how serious am I about Harry Potter? Hmm, let’s see… About nine and three quarters… AHHHHHH!! 😉

Too corny? NAHHH! Everyone who knows me will undoubtedly know that I love Harry Potter. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released when I was ten years old, and now 20 years later, every time I read this series, I am flooded with nostalgia. I can remember as a child, then a teenager, then a young adult – and every moment in between – waiting patiently for the publication of the next book. Over ten years, I was able to read seven amazing books that influenced me back then and continue to affect me now. Collectively, the Harry Potter series has sold over 500 million copies since the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997. Harry Potter is the best selling book series in history. No wonder… It’s flipping amazing!

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An Ember In The Ashes

‘This life is not always what we think it will be,’ Cain says. ‘You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.’

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Where do I start with this book? It was crazy good. Written by Sabaa Tahir, An Ember In The Ashes is gripping, compelling, infuriating, sad, inspiring and exciting all rolled into 448 pages. An Ember in the Ashes is the kind of book that captivates the reader and stirs a lot of emotion. It highlights the depth of humanity’s evil and shows that even in the toughest of circumstances, hope and love can prevail.

One of the ever-present questions that came across my mind while reading this books was, when being subject to the will of others, to what scale do our choices affect an outcome? If we are seen to have no control over our lives, then do we believe that we are lost, or do we fight anyway? To me, this book is an excellent example of why the human spirit is so important. It highlights the key components of what it takes to succeed against all the odds; that is, conviction, faith, love and a right to live freely.

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The Great Zoo of China-Book Review

Ok, before everybody starts screaming ‘spoiler alert’, we all know The Great Zoo of China is about dragons. If you didn’t, where have you been hiding? Just take a look at the massive dragon tail on the front cover or open the first few pages and you’ll see the quote about dragons, not to mention the pictures of the map with the size scale of dragons next to it. That’s before the novel even starts. So no hate people. This book is about dragons. There. I said it.

Matthew Reilly is an Australian Author, and he released The Great Zoo of China in November 2014. You may be familiar with his action-packed work such as The Scarecrow Series or The Jack West series, and almost from the start, The Great Zoo of China is full of relentless action.

If you take the book and flip it over to the back, this is what you’ll see:

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The Witcher Saga

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I am passionate about fantasy stories. Whether it be in books, television shows, movies or in games, I have fallen in love with the fantasy genre time and time again. It is the creativity in fabricating a complete world so unlike our own that gets me excited. It is in the process of creating characters and scenarios that I will never meet nor face, that I find the most wonderful. I continually look forward to exploring these unknown worlds.

Earlier this year I had taken a couple of hours out of my day to relax and play a game on my PlayStation 4. That’s normal for a 28-year-old, right? Anyway, I had purchased a game called The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and wanted to see what it was all about. I knew nothing of ‘The Witcher’ world, its characters or its plot. I became enthralled with the story and wanted to know more about Geralt of Rivia. After a brief google search, I discovered that the game is an adaptation of a book series by Polish fantasy writer, Andrzej Sapkowski. The Witcher Series is made up of two prequel books, The Last Wish, and Sword of Destiny, which are small collections of short stories related to the main characters of The Witcher Saga.

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