Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Year of the Flood


Last week I made an attempt to tell a friend what Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood: A Novel is about. She would probably tell you I wasn't very successful. I can hardly think of another book that I've read in its entirety that is so difficult to describe. But I will try, and at the very least hope to give my thoughts on this novel.

We know from the outset the Apocalypse has come for the human race. We also know that two women have survived, Ren and Toby. Ren has survived because she is locked inside a bizarre sex club where she worked. Toby has survived in a fancy spa, where the treatments are edible and she has horded food. Ren and Toby knew each other once, when they lived with the God's Gardener's, a green-burlap wearing-vegetarian group of people who try to preserve plant life, keep bees, and whose leader has predicted what is now happening. The Flood is a waterless one, and the story goes back and forth, telling the stories of Ren and Toby before and after the flood.

The period after the Flood overlaps with what Atwood fans know happened in Oryx and Crake. Because of this, we readers sometimes know more than Ren and Toby. In other instances the characters in this book clear up what we didn't understand about what was happening in O&C. Where O&C is the story inside the corporations, this is the story of what happened to everyone on the outside and what life had been like there. I loved seeing the characters from O&C in another light - they do appear here - in fact, the number of coincidences here where characters happened to know each other almost became silly.

I think a big question is: Do you need to have read Oryx and Crake to read this book? I'm going to say that if you're interested in this book, it would be to your benefit to read O&C first. Not only does the back story help, but enough is given away in The Year of the Flood that it would ruin O&C quite a bit.

My friend asked me if I enjoyed this book. I cannot really say that this is a book that you will 'like' or 'enjoy'. It is devastating and horrible, yet at the same time often hopeful. It is bizarre and even funny, in that disturbing way that Atwood is. It was a treat to immerse myself in this world that I already knew about, and learn more about Atwood's vision. It's just very Atwood - can I say Atwoodian - is that a word yet? It's totally her, so if you think she's fabulous, then this is for you.

15 comments:

bermudaonion said...

My son told me that I should read Oryx and Crake before I read this one. It does sound like a difficult book to describe, but one that will make you think.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Thanks for the info, because I am interested in both but also didn't know which to read first!

Ti said...

I think all of Atwood's books are hard to describe. They are very uniquely written. I tend to think that they border on brilliant and that my feeble mind just can't keep up with them.

Andi said...

I've seen this one, but I hadn't read much about it. Sounds good, but I need to get my hands on Oryx and Crake first.

jennysbooks said...

I'm seeing this book everywhere, and all my library's copies of Oryx & Crake are checked out! Waaaaah.

Thomas said...

Aaack! I didn't realize this was out already. Must get to bookstore...

Staci said...

Thanks for the heads up on having to read the other two first. That is what I will do if I decide to tackle this huge project!!

Iliana said...

I do think she's fabulous so this book is for me but I guess I am going to read O&C first. I hate being so out of the loop so I think that would bug me if I started reading this one. Thank you for such a great review and the reading tip!

Tara said...

Kathy, I agree with your son!

Rhapsodyinbooks, no problem!

Ti, I agree, and I do think Atwood is brilliant. But your mind is not feeble!

Andi, I would definitely read them in the order written.

Jennysbooks, I'm sort of impressed that all the O&Cs are checked out! What a literate place you live in.

Thomas, You know I'm not sure it is...I meant to mention I was lucky to get a review copy.

Staci, No problem! Plenty of time..

Iliana, I would definitely read O&C first. The entire experience of both books is enhanced, I believe, by reading them in the order published.

Thomas said...

Much to my chagrin, it is not out yet. Good things come to those who wait...

Chris said...

Atwoodian! Love it.

I have this one and hope to get to it soon.

Les said...

Hmmm, I wish I could say that I love Atwood. I've read several of her books, but I don't think I loved any of them. Oryx and Crake was interesting and I remember enjoying it, but don't ask me any details. I've only got a dim recollection of the plot. I need to scrounge around my reading journals and see what I wrote.

I'm glad you liked this sequel, but I don't think it's for me. Or, maybe I'll listen to both on audio. Now there's a thought! :)

Tara said...

Chris, me too! I'll be interested to see what you think of this!

Les, audio - good idea! These are not my favorite Atwood books, but I am fascinated by her and her writing.

Anna said...

I received an ARC of this book, and I flipped through it and thought it was a bit odd. I had no idea it was connected to O&C. Thanks for letting me know I should read that one first. I'm going to take your advice.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Tara said...

Anna, it is odd, I'm with you there! I hope you like these.