Cottage time = reading time, so while in day-to-day life I may be stuck behind my unfinished Italy tour books, I had free reign to pick up a novel (or two) while I was relaxing last week on the shores of Roddick Lake.
I had a whole week of ‘me’ time.
I had intended, for several years now, to read Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale – my first crack at an Atwood novel. The pressure had been mounting recently though; I wanted to get through it BEFORE I set about watching the Hulu TV series based on the novel.
On its own, that fact wouldn’t have caused me too much stress, but I also had multiple people pressuring me to finish reading so we could watch the show together.
Thankfully, Hulu was giving out free copies of the novel last time I was in NYC, and I snagged one. So with cottage time upon me, I had access to the book as well as time to focus.
I managed to get through A Handmaid’s Tale in about three and a half days – that’s fast for me. So I know I enjoyed it.
I found it a hard novel to break into, though. Maybe because I started with a vague understanding of the dystopian future that the book chronicles. I lacked the details and the over-arching plot, though, and I found it a bit frustrating how slowly the tidbits about this bleak future were doled out, at first.
I also found it disorienting because of how much the book jumps around the main character’s timeline without making a clear distinction about the time period being discussed.
That’s not a criticism. I think the confusion is intentional – and a little patience is rewarded with an ability to recognize the signposts in place to help ground the reader.
This is not a book that spoon feeds; it assumes a reader willing to think things through.
And yet, once you’re past the initial discombobulation, it never leaves you confused. As you become familiar with the universe and the invented terminology, you’re also carried along by a clear narrative, watching the main character grow and adapt to her circumstances.
I’m impressed by how well developed that character, Offred, is over the course of the novel; of how much more comfortable she becomes in her surroundings. How she adapts and how I adapted with her.
There is an epilogue that does help to answer a few more questions than are left open at the end of the chaptered novel. I was happy with the amount of wrap-up offered by the pre-epilogue portion, though, and I felt like I knew or could conjecture what happened to the main character and to all the secondary characters.
The epilogue offered a level of closure that, for the most part, I didn’t feel was needed. Still, others will want more, so who am I to say?
Having read the book, I’m looking forward to the TV series, although I feel like the series will probably be a lot less cryptic about what exactly happens to its characters and to the political system they’re surviving in. I like the mystery and the openness of possibilities.
What I’m looking forward to more is the opportunity to read more Atwood.
I didn’t have any with me at the cottage, however, but I still had a few days of cottage time left. I decided to tackle Orwell’s 1984.
I’ll get to that book review next.