Monday, 18 November 2013

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.

So begins a classic dystopian novel. The rest of the first paragraph is mostly description threaded together with conspicuous vocabulary (an Atwood trademark) like: palimpsest, forlorn, powdering, etc. There is not much else to say about this opening line. A slightly unusual situation is introduced - sleeping in a gym, and this raises the question why, but it's not like I'm burning to know, because it's not that unusual.

By paragraph 2 we get inside the head of the narrator and into the emotions of the dystopian world while at the same time the sexual element of the novel is introduced. But I'm not sure if the prose is trying to draw me into the story or lull me to sleep.

Chapter 2 begins with less promise:

A chair, a table, a lamp.

Lots of description and so moody. Moody beginnings turn some people on, but not me. I need more. That's right, I'm one of those needy readers who annoys writers with high expectations and a list of demands. I need to be manipulated, stimulated, titillated, entertained, informed, shocked, educated, horrified and hooked by the end of page one.

Only at the end of chapter 2, which does not bode well, do we get any dialogue.

"Tell them fresh, for the eggs."

Happy birthday, m'lady.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Theodore Moracht

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