The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

October 14, 2009

Year of the FloodThis is Atwood’s second book in her recent dystopian trilogy, and I loved it even more than Oryx and Crake. The narrative alternates between two women who were both part of a cult-like religion called God’s Gardeners. I particularly liked the structure of the book: every chapter would start out with a homily by the leader of God’s Gardeners, followed by a hymnal. (Songs that seem like they could be surprisingly catchy.) Then, in alternating sequence, each woman narrates her story, beginning with how they each survived the “waterless flood.” The flood is what the Gardeners call the lethal virus that nearly wiped out the human species as described in the previous book. What I love about Atwood’s writing, in this particular book, is that she doesn’t try to make things too black and white. I actually think that this is why The Year of the Flood far outshines her other two famous dystopian novels–The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake. In the other two books, I occasionally felt like she would demonize one half of society without question. In The Year of the Flood, however, she shows all of the good and bad parts of the God’s Gardeners group–sure, they were right about a lot of things: they knew that the mega-corporations shouldn’t be trusted, they were skeptical about eating fake food, and they learned about survival skills that would become crucial.  But they were also a little off the deep end and had questionable ideas about matrimony, among many things. The Gardeners were also pretty hypocrtical about technology and power structures. I loved how Atwood was less “preachy” in this book, despite the fact that a large chunk of it consists of actual sermons.

Frankly, the two women in The Year of the Flood were characterized much more deeply than the men in Oryx and Crake. In the previous book, the main character, Jimmy, seemed so two-dimensional and stereotypical, and the two secondary characters, Oryx and Crake, seemed so distant and unknown. In The Year of the Flood, I felt like I had become close friends with both Ren and Toby. Even though we learn about the childhood and the present lives of all of these numerous characters, the voices of Toby and Ren were just so distinct and interesting. Part of me wonders if Atwood is just more capable of creating believable female characters. The other part of me wonders, though, if I just personally relate to these characters better than others.

I can’t wait until the third book in the trilogy is released. I actually also can’t wait until the month before it gets released, when I’m sure that I’ll reread The Year of the Flood.


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