I was introduced to Margaret Atwood about seven or eight years ago by a dear friend of mine. I borrowed “Cat’s Eye” from him but he made it really clear that he wanted it back. I don’t really remember the book plot now, but I remember that it made me feel so many things and -even better- think so many thoughts. The moment I finished the book, I knew why it was so dear to him. So when my mother asked me if I wanted her to send me “The Year of The Flood” I got really excited.
I will try hard not to mention any spoilers and just briefly explain why EVERYONE should read this book. It is a 2009 book by the way, so I am sure you can find tons of reviews out there. I just finished it today though and as I love to share stuff that is worth sharing, I will write my review anyway.
So, why should you read this book?
You should read it because it is a pretty rational “prophecy” of what could happen to us and the planet, if we keep living the way we do (we=developed world). As you can probably imagine, the human kind has managed to destroy many natural resources and many animal species have gone extinct. There are also new animal species, created in bio-engineering labs. At first I thought that something would go terribly wrong with those new species and it would be kind of a “animal-zombies attack humans” book. But fortunately no, not at all.
Atwood creates a very realistic dystopia. I found myself thinking “Yes! This IS how life is going to be in a few years!”. And this is not only achieved by the detailed description of the urban environment and the meta-flood nature. It is also achieved by her characters. When you read the book blurb, you will think that there are two main characters. However, Atwood pays equal attention to each and every one of her characters, even if they appear in just ten pages. I felt strong likes and dislikes about some of them. And a couple remained a mystery till the end of the book. That is to say, I was not sure if the were good or evil or just plain crazy.
I have to admit that I was biased from the first few pages of the book, when I discovered that the people that are trying to save the Earth from the human greediness are a group of vegetarians. They are a religious sect, trying to combine science and religion and succeeding to a great extend. Atwood includes some of their hymns as well, which made the book even more interesting. What I love is that this group of people, called God’s Gardeners, seem to be very loyal to their beliefs and practices, but prove to be pretty adaptable, when the flood hits. They start out as vegetarians, not smoking, drinking alcohol or consuming any processed foods, and by the end of the book they have broken all their rules, in order to survive. However, they do not feel any kind of guilt, when they end up eating meat or surviving on processed powdered milk. They have to adjust, in order to survive. And they never lose their respect for other creatures.
The other aspect of this book that I loved is the fact that there are zero sex scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good literary sex scene, however it becomes harder and harder to find a book that you can’t put down, that does not contain a couple of pages of detailed intercourse descriptions. And this becomes even more admirable, if we take into account the fact that one of the main characters works in a sex club. The power of lust is explored in the book in a very original, non-descriptive way, along with other ethical struggles that the characters face.
This book will get you thinking about what you eat, what products you use, what you believe in, who and how you love, how you want to live and how you want to die, or, as God’s Gardeners put it, how you want to return to the protein chain.
I feel that Atwood has drawn a lot of inspiration from vegans, vegetarians, urban farming movements and the like, and having done a lot of reading on these topics myself for research purposes, I admire the depth of her own research even more.
I just read on Wikipedia that this book is connected to Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” and I will make sure to get this one as well.
Have you read “The Year of The Flood”? Did you like it as much as I did or is sleep deprivation blurring my judgment?