Nolite te bastardes carborundorum

Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some. / Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. It was first published in 1985. It’s a terrifying, truly dystopian book. The United States of America no longer exists. It has been replaced by the Republic of Gilead. This has been achieved through a nuclear destruction. And in Gilead, they follow the bible… or their own version of it.

The narrator of the book is Offred. She’s a Handmaid and her only function is to breed. This is achieved by something called ‘The Ceremony’ … Welcome to the patriarchal society of Gilead. Women are no longer free. They have no jobs, they cannot leave their houses, they cannot choose what to wear and they cannot read or write. among many other forbidden things. To put it simply, they have no rights. And if they rebel, they will either be hanged at the wall as an example for others or sent to deal with the aftermath of nuclear destruction.

“There is more than one kind of freedom,” said Aunt Lydia. “Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.” / Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

I first read Handmaid’s Tale over 10 years ago out of a recommendation from my teacher. I’m ashamed to say I did not like it or understand it very well back then. I think it was largely due to the translation (In Finland, the title translates as ‘Your Slavestress).  Well, blessed be  Hulu’s tv adaptation and the end of 2nd season that finally inspired me to dive back into this book.

Arwood’s novel is horrifyingly amazing.  It toys with many interesting ideas. Nuclear accident or weaponized nuclear power will always be a threat and then combining that with a religion gone wrong. You have some excellent ingredients for a dystopian there. Creepiness was on its own level. It was a matter of small things that could very well happen tomorrow. Freezing all the bank accounts with letter F on them. Saying women can’t go to work or own property. Moreover, it’s also spooky how Offred describes these things as something weird and absurd. She jokes about doing a jobbie and can’t imagine things like paper money anymore.  I think Handmaid’s Tale acts as a warning, of how easily things could go wrong especially if you don’t pick a side and let things slide. Personally, I did not enjoy the vagueness and the open ending so that cuts one star out of my rating.
4/5 stars

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.” 
/Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

How-To Read Handmaid’s Tale

1. If you’ve watched it then you really ought to have read it by now. If not, go read it now.
2.  It’s kind of vague and I know it will bother some readers because it bothers me. We don’t learn how Gilead was created, we don’t know who our main character is, we only get the smallest glimpse of Offred’s life.
3. Not a lot of suspense, mainly just observations. Think of it as a biography that was only partly uncovered.
4. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Have you read this? Thoughts? Do you watch the show?

 

How-To Read Finnish Dystopian

“Water walks with the moon and embraces the earth, and it isn’t afraid to die in fire or live in air. When you step into it, it will be as close as your own skin, but if you hit it too hard, it will shatter you .”
― Emmi Itäranta, Memory of Water

Nowadays I never read or especially like Finnish literature (except few books), because I often find that books of Finnish authors miss something. Sometimes it’s the plot, sometimes it’s the language. Often I read a book through and I end up thinking that I didn’t  really get what it missed but something it lacked. . This is why I was really surprised to find myself reading Emmi Itäranta’s debut Memory of Water (Finnish: Teemestarin kirja = The Tea Master’s Book).

What I liked about this book was that the setting was in Finland and plot and characters were original. I liked Noria as not so many dystopian main characters live very privileged life. I also liked the fact that in this dystopian world, somehow there was strong tea drinking culture (poor coffee drinkers) and tea ceremony.The writing was beautiful, use of words was excellent in this book and the fact that Itäranta translated the book herself (I think?) makes the English kind of nicely different.

What I really  did not like about this book was how the plot was built very well  and then the ending was rushed. I waited for the next level for the whole book and there never was one. And the ending seemed a bit fake. There could have been much potential to take things slower and turn this book into trilogy.

I would rate this book 6½ – 7/10.

Death is water’s close companion, and neither of them can be separated from us, for we are made of the versatilitiy of water and the closeness of death. Water doesn’t belong to us, be we belong to water: when it has passed through our fingers and pores and bodies, nothing separates us from earth.”
― Emmi Itäranta, Memory of Water

How-To Read Memory of Water
1
I think you will find the setting to be interesting: Finland! Also the book has common and less common Finnish names that make reading interesting. At same time if you are Finn, names aren’t so typical that they would annoy you.
2. 260 pages and ending seemed a bit rushed to me and I hoped there could be a sequel but I doubt that there will be. I was disappointed as I was expecting something much more from this book and Finnish literature in general but I don’t regret reading this book.
3. I liked how it was realistic: China is the most influential country, there is plastic and junk everywhere and something has gone wrong with the weather so that Noria, the main character, has never really seen what snow looks like.
4. Philosophical, I liked how Itäranta described the water as element (as you can see in the quotes and pictures)
5. Book has been translated well into English but of course you could always try learn Finnish ;) Personally, I think both titles match the book well. Finnish: Teemestarin tytär and English: Memory of Water.

                                              Buy Memory of Water: A Novel on Amazon