Saturday, 16 May 2015

Post Number 13 Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

As the weather warms and my seedlings push to the surface, I have to decide between my three loves of garden, baking and books. I resolutely juggle all three, and love the combination of reading in the garden in the comfort of my steamer chair on our lovingly-made-by-hubby decking.

Front CoverLast night I finished Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood. It is the third in the trilogy and completes the story in a fully satisfying manner.  My year 13 students have to undertake a text transformation for their A2 studies, and many choose Atwood's titles as a base text.  I first read her dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale  and then moved swiftly to The Blind Assassin (incidentally, I lent that one to someone once...and it is still missing in action....if any blog readers are experiencing of a pang of "whoops, that's me!", please feel free to return my copy with no fear of recrimination!), following that, I read Lady Oracle, (the only Atwood, I didn't enjoy), then on to this trilogy.  The story begins in the middle, with Oryx and Crake, skips to the beginning with The Year of the Flood and finishes with Maddaddam.  As you would hope from a final novel in a series, this one picks up on strands that were not fully completed in the previous novel and allows you to see the development of characters whose final fate was left uncertain.

Characterisation is important in this post apocalyptic world.  Atwood cleverly weaves the backstories and builds a complex society divided into Compounds and the Pleeblands. In the first novel Jimmy begins the tale as an isolated survivor of some unspecified event.  Through Jimmy we meet Glenn, or Crake and begin to see his psychopathic tendencies.  Jimmy's humanity is juxtaposed with Crake's psychopathy throughout and the ending is tragic for the human race.  This is no spoiler as the opening chapter sees Jimmy as a lone survivor.  The second book rewinds and introduces us to a whole reel of characters we hadn't seen in the first novel.  The protagonist, Toby, a female, is rescued from a dangerous situation in the Pleeblands by AdamOne and we hear of her life as one of God's Gardeners, a sect that separated itself from the activities in both the Compounds and the wider Pleeblands.  At the end of this second novel, she is left exposed and vulnerable, but a twist in the tale enables her to meet Jimmy.  Thus the third novel shows the links between the two characters and completes the tale of the apocalypse and its fallout.

The novel ends hopefully, a nice change to some of the other Atwood books, where, at best, the optimist can find a glimmer of a gap in the story to allow in some light. Humanity survives and basic human decency is intact.  There is even a chance that humanity might better itself, with the help of the influence of those like Blackbeard, (you need to read it for that one)!

Overall, an excellent trilogy.  My favourite novel of the series was the second one, but all are highly readable and challenging.  I appreciated the sense of completion that occurred with Maddaddam.

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