Tuesday, September 22, 2009

REVIEW: The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood. Published 2009 by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. Literary Fiction. Science Fiction.

The Year of the Flood, the latest literary dystopia from Canadian author Margaret Atwood, is not so much a sequel to her last book, Oryx and Crake, as it is a companion novel. I am a huge fan of Atwood's novels, and not having read an Atwood book in a couple of years, I was so excited to get my hands on this one.

TYoTF unrolls efficiently, on a typically Atwoodian double time line, following two women, Ren and Toby. Toby is older, a middle aged woman who's gone from a lost adolescent to convert to a quasi-religious, vegan-survivalist cult called God's Gardeners, and now one of a handful of survivors of a deadly, virulent plague. Ren grows up with the Gardeners and knows Toby tangentially but not well; she, too, has survived and thinks she's alone. The double time line shows us the past and present of each woman as she negotiates this violent, broken-down world.

I really enjoyed The Year of the Flood- like, really enjoyed it. Atwood's science fiction/dystopian novels aren't as compelling to me as her other, more strictly literary, writing, but she is a masterful writer and Flood finds her doing what I think she does better than anyone- writing about women's lives. In between all the scifi pyrotechnics and page-turning action, that's what it's about and that's what I loved best about it. Having said that, it is also a great page-turner and a dizzying, dazzling and disturbing vision of the future.

Now, the big question about Flood is- do you have to have read Oryx and Crake to get it? No. Absolutely no. When I read Flood I had not read Oryx and Crake and had no trouble following it at all. In fact, I have since read Oryx and Crake and found it a good deal less easy to follow in general than Flood. The books operate as two countries in the same world. Major characters from one are minor characters in another; questions asked in one get answered in the other but they work together, not as first-book and sequel. I'm hoping there's more to come. As it stands, Flood is a terrific read that I think will appeal to science fiction and literary fiction readers.

So? Go get both.

Rating: BUY

UPDATE: I just found out, The Year of the Flood has been longlisted for Canada's prestigious Giller Prize. So, not all science fiction is neglected by major literary awards!

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.

17 comments:

Amy said...

I am really looking forward to reading this book. I read ORYX AND CRAKE when it was released and, to be honest, I remember very little of it. However, I love Atwood's speculative fiction so this one is a must-read.

-Amy
Life by Candlelight

Diane said...

What a great review. I'm so glad to see you enjoyed this one Marie. I put it off as I had not read Oryx and Crake , so I was glad to see that you did not feel that it mattered. Thanks

bermudaonion said...

I'm glad you answered the Oryx and Crake question, because I wanted to know before I started The Year of the Flood.

An Anonymous Child said...

The more I hear about Margaret Atwood, the more I'd like to read something of hers. Perhaps it's partly the genre - "literary science fiction", as some have dubbed it (though I have a few issues with that label... unrelated) - but it's also that the premises sound quite interesting. I seem to recall owning an old copy of "The Handmaid's Tale" which I'll probably get around to reading someday soon...

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Yes, also glad re Oryx and Crake question. And may I say Oryx is one difficult word to type! Margaret Atwood would also make a good typing teacher....

Charley said...

Margaret Atwood has been on my radar for a while. I think The Handmaid's Tale is the one on my list.

Zibilee said...

I have been waiting excitedly to see what you thought of this one, and I'm really glad that you loved it so much! I am going to take your advice and grab a copy of this book, it sounds like just the type of read I have been craving. Excellent review!

nanscorner said...

I am adding this to my TBR pile. I read The Handmaid's Tale this year and loved it. I can't wait to read this one.

pinkflipflops said...

That sounds like one I might pick up. I've read a few Atwood and enjoyed some and hated others. As in unable to finish them. I haven't read Oryx and Crake but this one sounds good. How would you compare it to The Handmaid's Tale? That's my favorite Atwood.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Great review! I am glad to read that one doesn't have to have read "Oryx and Crake" to read this one. Although I'll probably read it first anyway :)

the heart is a lonely reader said...

Totally on my to-read list. I need to bring it back to the top of the pile if it has a chance of being read before the new year.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

thanks for this comment. I love reading off your thoughts.

Marie said...

Pinkflipflops- for me, it was not as disturbing at The Handmaid's Tale and although it was almost as compelling. The world Atwood creates in Flood is almost cartoonish in its outlandishness and wasn't as relatable- in Handmaid's Tale, I felt like I could see how that world happened- it felt more immediate. That connection is missing in Flood; its world is more remote. Both were terrific reads but after Flood I didn't feel as traumatized! :-)

debnance said...

In my teens, science fiction was my chief entree. Now it's an occasional dessert. Loved Onyx and I clearly remember thinking, after reading it, that I need to see out more contemporary sf. I haven't, of course, but I will definitely find this new Atwood.

Diana Raabe said...

Great reviews - and thanks for clearing up whether or not you have to read one to get the other.

"Buying both" sounds like a good idea.

Anna said...

Well, you've answered my question. LOL I'm looking forward to reading this one. Atwood's books are so unique.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

the hentzen house said...

wasn't interested in reading this one because i couldn't finish 'oryx and crake'... so thanks for the reveiw! jh