Friday, February 9, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale

 The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is destined to become a classic read, if it's not already.  And, embarrassingly, I just now read it for the first time.  Yes, the book came out in 1986 and I had never read it.  I read it now at the urging of my daughter-in-law. Great recommendation!

So, if there are any readers out there who haven't read The Handmaid's Tale, I found it to be a frightening cautionary tale at this time in our lives.  If I had read it in 1986, I probably wouldn't have cared for it as much.  I found it fascinating!

The Handmaid's Tale (Movie Tie-in)In the novel the United States had been taken over and sent back to a time when women were primarily only good for "using".  There were different levels of women: the handmaid's, the wives, the aunts, the Martha's, etc.  The handmaid's purpose was to become pregnant by her "Commander" (ie. owner). Offred (of Fred-her Commander's name) was the handmaiden telling this story.  She remembered the times when she had been married to Luke and they had a young daughter. She worked and life was as we know it now.  Then the government was taken over and life changed.  She, Luke and their daughter were separated from each other.  Women were not allowed to read, there was no television or movies. Even the stores had pictures, not words, because one was not allowed to read anything.

The whole story was horrifying, yet the goodness of Offred came through.  As did the power of women.  There really wasn't anything hopeful about the book, but in the end, the reader is left hoping that Offred escapes.

I have to add, I (thankfully) always read introductions, author's notes, etc. in books.  At the end of this book is a section called "Historical Notes".  My intent was to just skim over it and as I did, I realized that it was part of the novel!  So glad that I realized that!  It really made the book for me!

I hope that this has not put anyone off from reading the book, because it is well worth the read.  It is short and easy to read, and wonderful writing.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Gravity of Birds

The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman was chosen by one of my book groups.  It is a book that has been on my TBR pile for a short while, so I was glad to pick it up to read.  I thought that I had read another novel by this author, but apparently I wrong, as this is her debut novel and it doesn't appear that any other novels by her are out there. 
The Gravity of Birds: A NovelThe book is divided into sixteen chapters.  Thirteen chapters are told in the novel's present time (2007) and the other three chapters go back in time (from 1963 to 1972) to tell the background story of the novel  The book starts in August 1963. 
The novel begins with two young girls at a beach side cabin on vacation with their parents, where the family encountered the painter Thomas Bayber, who was staying in the next-door cabin.  Forty-four years later, Thomas, who hadn't painted for the past twenty years, asked his only friend, Dennis Finch to find and sell his painting Kessler Sisters.  Bayber had become a renowned painter and Finch had been an art history professor who had become an expert on Bayber's paintings.  The Kessler Sisters was an unknown, never seen before piece.  And before Finch could sell the painting, he needed to find Alice and Natalie.  And it appears that the women have disappeared.  Finch and art authenticator, Stephen, began the search to find the women and during their search they began to unravel life-changing secrets that were kept from all parties concerned.
This was a very interesting and compelling book.  I really enjoyed the story.  , and thought that the writing was excellent. Here's a very brief sample of the writing where Alice is talking about the pain she suffered from arthritis:
"I worry there's nothing left of the person I was supposed to be, beyond the pain.  Sometimes I can't separate myself from it.  I think about how when I'm gone, then the pain will be gone, too.  We'll have finally canceled each other out.  Maybe it will be like I was never here at all."
My only criticism is that at the very end the author threw in a rather irrelevant (I thought) added secret that I thought took away from the actual story.  Having said that, it did not alter the ending nor my pleasure reading the book!