The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“There is more than one kind of freedom,” said Aunt Lydia. “Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”

4/5 stars.
Re-read on August 25, 2019 to August 28, 2019.
ebook, 322 pages.
Originally read June 2011.
Paperback, 311 pages.

I am unimpressed with my younger self and the impressions I initially had with this book. I must not have had the emotional intelligence or wherewithal to truly grasp the raw and gripping moments in this story or maybe the recent current political atmosphere has opened up my eyes to some of the real themes that are present in this book. I reread this book in the anticipation of it its sequel that was just released this September.

This was my original and very poor review from the first time I read the book back in 2011.

This novel was hauntingly interesting and a scary thought of what our future could potentially hold. I enjoyed the story but I wasn’t overly enthralled. The story is similar to that of a female version of Orwell’s 1984 so I guess Atwood’s story felt like something I was already familiar with. This isn’t entirely Atwood’s fault as this novel was written in the early 1980’s so I can imagine the impact that this book would have had with these kinds of radical and dystopian types of ideas and would have certainly warranted a Governor’s General Award. Overall, I enjoyed the novel but it is not at the top of my dystopian novel list.

Pffft, see? Kids these days, I tell ya. Thank goodness I grew up a little.

Offred is a Handmaid in the morally righteous and strict society of Gilead. She doesn’t want to be one, she was forced to be one and her own daughter and husband are snatched away from her. The declining birth rates have ‘forced’ the hands of religious fanatics to alter society and ‘cleanse’ it to what they believed to be a pure and functional society. Women are stripped of their careers, finances, and worth and forced back into the homes and put within strict roles that the leading men, the Commanders, thought appropriate: Marthas, the caretakers, cleaners and cooks for the homes of Commanders, Wives, upper-class women who have the privilege of being allowed to marry and may or may not have children, Econowives, the poor women who can’t afford to have Marthas, the Aunts, women who have found a “higher calling” (AKA the ones trying to find a way out of getting married) never marry or bear children and tasked with educating and training women in each group, and of course the Handmaids, fertile and often rebellious women who fit into none of the categories and are forced to serve Gilead by being sent to Commander’s homes to bear children for them.

I think that Offred’s story is even more relevant than it was before and that this story will speak to a new generation of women who are still fighting for rights and autonomy over their own bodies.  I’m also thankful that there is a sequel as I had forgotten how much of the ending left you hanging. Not that I would change it but it will be good to see the follow-through and hopefully what eventually happens to Offred and Gilead as the end *spoiler alert* of the story implies that the Gilead society did, mercifully, eventually crumble.

There was something about reading this for a second time that hit me emotionally where it missed this first time. I think it’s a combination of things, for one, I’m at an age where I’m considering having children and am worried about my own fertility, that I am disturbed by some of the backwards movements that have happened a little too close to my home country, and that I’m a little more learned and aware of some of the issues and challenges of being a woman and I’m finally starting to realise how not okay I am with it. On top of that, Atwood’s writing is a pleasure to read as it is concise and highly engaging.

This is a book that should be read in schools and then re-read later on, like I did, to appreciate the full horror of this story. I cannot wait for the sequel and I hope that it continues to push and question societal issues surrounding women as this book has.

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

“I manage because I have to. Because I’ve no other way out. Because I’ve overcome the vanity and pride of being different, I’ve understood that they are a pitiful defense against being different. Because I’ve understood that the sun shines differently when something changes. The sun shines differently, but it will continue to shine, and jumping at it with a hoe isn’t going to do anything.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 288 pages.
Read from August 9, 2019 to August 13th, 2019.

I picked up all three Witcher games on a fantastic Steam sale this last summer when I found myself halfway through the first game and loving it, only to find out that the games are based off a book series! I was committing book blasphemy! And now, there is a Netflix series coming out this fall too. I had to read the books.

Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher. A mutant. An outcast. He is one of the few to pass the Witcher training and complete his mutation without dying giving him remarkable powers and strengths. His stark white hair has been stripped of its colour from the change and his eyes are slit like a cat. The tasks of a Witcher are to defeat the monsters of the world but as Geralt is coming to learn, sometimes the monsters aren’t what they seem. He questions his ethics and purpose as a Witcher as the world around him becomes more corrupt with not monsters, but people, who appear to be the evil ones.

2018-09-05-image-5
Definitely crushing on this handsome gent.

This book is touted as a collaboration of short stories but it read more like a novel as the stories related to each other and followed a general chronological order, however, you could easily have read each chapter in and of its self. Geralt is a fantastically dynamic character and the writing paints the realm of Witchers so vividly. Even in translation, the writing is concise and engaging. The book lends itself well to the first Witcher game as you get to play out some of the more elaborate plot points from this book in the game itself.

I am ecstatic to have found another fantasy series that I’m in love with and I will definitely be devouring every book in this series. I would recommend this book to any fantasy lover and especially those who want to play the video games as you’re able to get the full pictures and scope on Geralt and his adventures. Needless to say, I don’t plan on leaving the Witcher world anytime soon.

 

The Companions by R.A. Salvatore

“How long lived our memory of you when you are gone? Because in the end, that is the only measure. In the end, when life’s last flickers fade, all that remains is memory. Richness, in the final measure, is not weighed in gold coins, but in the number of people you have touched, the tears of those who mourn your passing, and the fond remembrances of those who continue to celebrate your life.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 384 pages.
Read from July 6, 2019 to July 11, 2019.

I have been looking forward to this book for a long time. While I have enjoyed the new journey that Drizzt took with some new and old characters, I really missed the Companions of the Hall. This is book 24 (I think? According to Goodreads anyway) of The Legend of Drizzt series that is now 30+ books in length. I actually never imagined I get this far when I picked up the series more than ten years ago.

Cattibrie, Bruenor, Regis, and Wulfgar have been reunited in death and have been given a choice, a gift from the goddess Melikki, to help their friend Drizzt in his time of need. They are to be reincarnated and will meet on a set date and location in which their assistance to their friend will be needed and revealed. The story follows their rebirth from children, who still retain their previous memories and adult mind, through their growth and struggle in being reborn. Wulfgar is uncertain he wants to be reincarnated, even for the sake of Drizzt, while Bruenor gets to see the follow-through of some his most important decisions as King in his past life and struggles to come to terms with the person that he is now. Regis is determined to be more valuable to his friends in this life by becoming stronger and more courageous. Cattibrie knows her path and is determined to learn as much magic as she can in order to be reunited with her beloved Drizzt. There are, however, no guarantees in this rebirth. The Companions have one chance and if they die in this life there is no coming back.

What an adventure this book was! It is unlike any of the other books in the Legend of Drizzt series. For one, it’s one of the few books in the series that requires knowledge and context from other books in the existing series.  Most of the books in the series can be picked up without having read many of the books in the series but I feel like this one is an exception and without the background knowledge of the characters and their previous lives this plot would be very confusing. Secondly, Drizzt is barely heard from in this book as the narrative switches between his companions only.

Kudos to Salvatore for finding a clever and innovative way to bring back his much-loved characters. I’m not sure if this was his plan all along, regardless, it worked out well and this book is very well-executed. Looking forward to the remainder of the series now that Drizzt has his companions at his side again.