It’s been around a month since I finished this novel and I still don’t know exactly how to say how I feel about it. This articulate, funny, intimate, and authentic novel is about the depression and breakdown of Esther Greenwood. But through that, it’s about the inescapable confines the expectations of being a woman in Post-modern Western society.
Esther is a studious and successful nineteen year-old. She’s in New York for wining a writing contest and is enrolled in an advanced English program where she can devise her own curriculum. She constantly feels he pressure of her future. She doesn’t know what she’s gong to do after college except get married and have children, like all of the other women around her. She also feels the fruitlessness of her degree. It seems like just something to do until she can perform her feminine duties.
I chose this novel for our book club. I didn’t realize that it was going to hit home for all of the women in our group- albeit in different ways. We all took different parts of this novel very personally and identified with it. We all felt like this was a novel women in our situations should read.
I loved this novel. I feel like I read it for the first time at the perfect moment. I’m sure I’ll reread it in a few years and I’ll get something else out of it. It may not be technically flawless, but it affected me deeply.
This collection of fictional short stories by Roxanne Gay centers on a variety of women that have suffered hardships. When I first started the collection, I thought that it was non-fiction and I was horrified that Gay went through that situation. Then I started the second story and I realized that these must be fictional stories about different women. But none of them are dramatized, and similar, if not exact replicas of these situations, happen every day.
While I wouldn’t call any of these stories ‘happy’, some of them did have hope. My favorite was “North Country”. This is one of the longer stories in the book and follows a woman who teaches engineering at a college in the Midwest. Due to the dark color of her skin, people assume time and time again that she is from Detroit. Like most of the stories in this collection, the plot revolves around a traumatic event that occurred in this woman’s life. But unlike most of the other stories, this one ends with a hopeful tone. She is able to find love again and is part of a healthy relationship.
My biggest problem with Difficult Women was that every story had the same themes and tone. There was a variety in plot, but Gay centered on the same themes of trauma and the crimes against women. These are extremely important topics, but it was difficult to read stories about them over and over again. But Gay is a fantastic writer and I moved through these swiftly. I can’t wait to read her novel, now that I’ve finally finished one of her works.
Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It’s the story of Felix, a down-and-out ex-artistic director of a theatre. After losing his daughter and his wife, and then his job, Felix decides to become a hermit. After 12 years of solitude and planning his revenge, he finally has the opportunity with teaching a theatre course at a local prison.
This book is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series from Penguin/Random House, who is publishing modern retellings of Shakespeare written by popular literary authors of today. This one was an indulgent feast for a theatre person. Not only is theatre a huge part of the plot, the cathartic release that comes from good theatre is a huge theme.
One of my favorite parts of this novel was the journey that Felix undergoes. He grows so much during the novel, but he is still a realistic person driven by human emotions at the end. Atwood kept that essential part of Shakespeare that makes his writing universally accessible.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I would want to read the rest in this series. But they’ll have a hard time topping this theatre-filled story that Atwood was able to translate perfectly for today.
When I read this book for my 2016 Reading Challenge, I’d just heard about the TV series for Hulu. I’m reviewing this book through a recommendation. If there’s anything else that you want me to read and review, please don’t hesitate to ask! When I say that this book changed the way I think, I do so without a hint of irony. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is literary without being pretentious and, since January 20, 2107, closer to reality in the United States than we ever expected.
For those unfamiliar with the novel, it follows the story of Offred, a woman who is a Handmaid. Handmaids are women whose function is to sexually satisfy and bear children for the elite of a new religious oligarchy. But these men who are the head of the new system also have wives. Offred is assigned to The Commander and his wife, Serena Joy, because she is infertile. In actuality, The Commander is infertile, but men are not allowed to be infertile under the laws of Gilead, the new nation and government.
I’ve read the majority of classic dystopian novels. This one stands out to me for three reasons: the female protagonist, its subsequent focus on female issues, and that it is from the perspective of someone who remembers ‘before’. I like 1984 and Brave New World, but they have no concern for women beyond the typical archetypal roles of whore and/or mother. The Handmaid’s Tale is from the perspective of a woman who remembers the freedom she had before the current extreme patriarchal society that took over.
I can’t really express how much this novel affected me in just a few short paragraphs. I have trouble articulating it at all, actually. I read literature to gain perspectives that aren’t my own. But we are just a few small steps away from a United States that could resemble the one that Offred lives in. I love this novel because it’s a mixture f many of my favorite genres: dystopian, feminist, and sci-fi/fantasy. Every word of this novel resounded with me and I already can’t wait to read it again.