Sunday, January 31, 2010

virtual book club - the year of the flood

Do you remember way back in November when I first told you about my virtual book club? Thanks to the ever helpful Sam at MS&L and the kind folks at Indigo Books I was given a selection of three current novels to read. I just recently managed to finish one of them.

After going back and forth on which book to start first I finally settled on The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood. I'm not even going to lie to you, I picked that one first because Grandma Sandi had taken Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls home with her to read. I wasn't sure what I was getting into with the Margaret Atwood book. I knew it was set in the future and that's not really my thing, although I have to admit I did enjoy the excerpt I had read in a magazine (Canadian Living maybe).

The Year of Flood, as I mentioned is set in the future and the story centers around a religious group, God's Gardeners. They talk about the waterless flood that will come and change the world as it is known. The book follows Toby and Ren, two members of the Gardeners, and their stories before and after this disaster has occurred.

The book did not grab me right away. I mean clearly I was interested enough to keep reading, but it didn't grab me in that - Oh my gosh, I HAVE to know what will happen next - kind of way. I think that may in part be my fault. You see The Year of the Flood is a companion book (I don't know if it should be called a sequel) to Atwood's previous work, Oryx and Crake. It was suggested to me by Lynn that I may want to read that first and she may have been right. I felt as I was reading it like there was much of the story untold. I'm not sure if that was the style in which it was written or would I have a better understanding of the setting had I first read Oryx and Crake. Perhaps Lynn can shed some light on that for me.

With the book being set in the future there is much about the world that has changed and yet Atwood writes as if I already know what this new world is like. She uses the names of animals, like Mohairs and rakunks without explaining what they are or how they came to be. The city is divided into sections, but I only think I know how that works.

Beyond my problems with true story comprehension I have to say this was a real thought provoking book. The state of the planet in the future of this book is horrifying. Not just the animals that are extinct or the new ones that have been created to take their place, but the state of humanity as well. It's a truly sad commentary. It makes you stop and think... what does it take to get the world to that stage? Is that the path we're on now? I don't want to make it seem like this is a dark heavy book. I mean, sure it's a dark topic, but I think it reads pretty hopeful. Definitely an interesting read especially in today's climate of infectious diseases, global warming, big corporation and such.

Overall I did enjoy this book. By the end I was invested in the characters and was interested to see how the story turned out for them. I enjoyed it enough to want to read Oryx and Crake now (hint hint birthday shoppers). Which, from what I can tell via reviews I've read about both books, is reading O&C should only up my appreciation for The Year of the Flood.

Has anybody read either book? What are your thoughts?

Next on my night stand.... Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls.


Mary Lynn said...

I read Oryx and Crake years ago, and while I liked the book a lot, I can't really say I enjoyed it. It's much too dark and harrowing to actually enjoy.

Year of the Flood I both loved and enjoyed. Although it's still a dark novel, there is a hopefulness to it that just isn't there in Oryx and Crake. YotF has plenty of humour in it to lighten up all the post-apocalyptic depressing bits.

As for needing to read Oryx & Crake first, you're probably right that it would have helped. The funny thing is that I was more than half-way through the book before it twigged on me that there were characters in YotF that had been in O&C, too. My memory's not what it used to be. Still, once I realized a lot of things from O&C came back to me and filled in the details of YotF. I think reading O&C definitely would have made it easier to understand the last 1/4 of the book.

I had a chance to see Margaret Atwood's book tour for YotF. It was fantastic! Here is Toronto they had an event at St. James Cathedral where they had actors read parts of the book, with Margaret Atwood narrating, and a choir singing a bunch of the God's Gardener's hymns. Was wonderful.

Shan said...

Thanks for explaining that Mary Lynn. I think I really just glossed over the whole O&C thing. I mean I knew O&C was set in the future as well, I just didn't realize they went together. Which is silly, because Lynn flat out told me they did. It wasn't until I read the acknowledgments at the end that it all sunk in. Reading fail!

That would have been great to see. How lucky for you that you got to be there.

Lynn said...

Unlike Mary Lynn, I totally adored Oryx and Crake. Love love love. It is dark and harrowing but I saw lots of humour in it, too. Plus the characters are just so vivid.

I haven't had a chance yet to read Year of the Flood but it's on my list. Hopefully soon!