Review: The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Margaret Atwood ladies and gentlemen, giving women nightmares since the eighties. [Applause]

This second book in the Maddaddam trilogy delves into the “pleb lands” where it seems that anything goes as long as it’s making somebody money. This is not the world of Jimmy and Crake but the world of Toby and Ren, two women who survive such horrific treatment by everyone that the weird hippy cult they live in really does seem great. While moving through the story I thought the way Toby did – this stuff is stupid and crazy but I’ll go with it. But if I lived in that world I would have loved to be in that cult. I skipped over most of the preaching and singing though. I felt like it added very little to the narrative and was a sort of atmosphere-creating tool instead of a plot-moving one. Once you read one sermon and song you’ve basically got the gist of all of them.

The first half of the book was so slow-going that I almost quit on it but the second half was exciting, horrifying, and well, so dystopian. I liked Toby and understood her but Ren I struggled with. I dislike her in a mildly irritated way. She’s a stupid girl. I see her as typical white trash. A grown woman who hasn’t matured since she was twelve and is still hanging on to feelings for a shitty boyfriend she had as a teen. I’ve suffered from long-lasting heartache as much as the next homo sapien but not over someone who was clearly just an asshole. Alright, so I don’t need to relate to a character to enjoy reading about them. Why was I having such a problem with Ren’s story line? I think there were a handful of factors. Her part of the story is told in first person which makes me feel like I’m reading a whiney teenager’s diary full of angst. Toby’s story is in third person and despite her doubts about herself, or maybe because of them, she exudes maturity and strength. Toby matured and developed while Ren remains a child to the end. And because Ren is basically stupid I feel like she has very little substance. She’s barely a character because she mostly just gets swept along. When she does make choices they are very unwise and emotional ones. Toby gets swept along but is observant, speaks up for herself, thinks things through. This makes Toby seem solid and real while Ren is a puff of air.

This wasn’t a bad book and since I’ve read two of the series and sort of gotten used to living in the flow of this story I’m going to read the last book. I hope it isn’t as slow as this one sometimes was but even if it is I feel it will be worth my time.

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“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” ― Mark Twain

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