Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Reviews: The Handmaidens Tale, A Spot of Bother, the House Girl

The Haindmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I'd heard of this and it was a dollar at Half Price Books so I bought it having no idea what it was really about. It a futuristic dystopian novel set in the future Republic of Gilead, a theocratic dictatorship in what was formerly the USA. Told from the first-person perspective of Offred, a concubine, kept for the purposes of reproduction. In the book she is exposed to various illegal activies; the commander she lives with begins a relationship with her in which they play scrabble and she is allowed to read, the commander's wife starts a sexual encounter between Offred and their driver, Nick, and she is exposed to an underground movement by another Handmaid she encounters. I don't normally like science fiction, or dystopian novels (really didn't enjoy 1984 in school) but halfway through the book I found myself pretty engrossed in Offred's story. Atwood's writing is intriguing and the flashbacks Offred has of her prior family and training really help you get in her head. 3/5 stars
The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Conklin tells the intertwining stories of Josephine Bell, a slave girl, who decides to run away from the plantation where she works for the ailing mistress and of Lina Sparrow, a first year associate at a law firm in NYC. Sparrow's firm takes up a case for an important client of theirs which will sue the government for reparations for descendants of slaves. As Sparrow begins work on the case she seeks to find the "perfect plaintiff" of their case. Through her father, a famous artist, she learns of a scandal in the art world involving paintings of Lu Anne Bell, Josephine's owner. At the same time Lina is working through the childhood loss of her mother and we're reading about Josephine's life on the plantation. I thought the book was good (I read it mostly in one morning because it was due back at the library and I felt compelled to finish it). However it seems a bit bland, like typical story of a slave on a plantation and a young woman working hard and finding out about herself by the end of the book. There are other, better books about life on plantations and strong female characters I would rather read. 3/5 stars.

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

This is Haddon's second novel, after The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, written about the Hall family, including George and Jean, and their grown children Katie and Jamie. George begins to go slightly mad over the course of the book, beginning with a spot on his hip he determines is skin cancer. All the while his wife, Jean, is having an affair with a former co-worker. Katie is getting married to Ray, a man the whole family disapproves of. And Jamie, fails to invite his partner Tony to their wedding, which leads to the end of their relationship. Over the course of George having anxiety attacks and making rash decisions; Jean's lover asking her to leave the marriage, Katie and Ray deciding if they love each other and Jamie attempting to fix his own life their lives intertwine in incredibly dysfunctional ways as families sometimes do. There were some unnecessary inappropriate parts (I'm not totally against sex scenes just when I feel they're not integral but just thrown in to some part of the story I get annoyed). I was drawn into their relationships and struggles and my heart ached for them but I wouldn't recommend the book. 2/5 stars. 

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