The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

It has been many years since I read The Handmaid’s Tale. I did not list it in my books read in the early aughts but I remember reading it and Alias Grace at some point in high school.

As a Canadian, I think I read it for school. I could barely remember the ending but I remember liking the writing enough. I had to remind myself and read a synopsis of it before I started this book. I have not seen the tv show but I read more about it after I finished this novel.

I have read only a handful of Atwood’s works and sometimes, I’ve struggled to feel for her characters. I remember thinking The Handmaid’s Tale was well written but I didn’t find there was enough character work. I had a similar feeling for Alias Grace, and I think that book was excellently written too. However, I found Grace was fascinating. I tend to avoid adaptations of Atwood’s work because her subject matter is often bleak and I don’t love her books enough to invest in to an adaptation.

When I started The Testaments, I was reminded of all these things. I did not find myself that interested in the three narrators in the beginning. Over time, I became engrossed. I felt this was the most engaging of Atwood’s work in a long time. This book is more like a TV thriller than her other books. Even with its internal monologues, there is a lot more plot than the first book. It’s a larger book but it did feel slightly pulpier. I managed to finished this book in one Sunday.

I began to slowly feel invested in almost all the main characters such as Lydia, Becka, and Agnes. Daisy was quite annoying at times. I guess it can be blamed on upbringing and her adolescence, but she seemed too much like a stereotypical bratty teenager. I found the writing for Agnes and Becka so much more compelling when they were preteens. Daisy served as their foil but it was not realistic how tactless and ungrateful Daisy could be at times.

The Aunt Lydia character was fascinating. I’ve read Atwood was inspired by the TV’s Ann Down version of Aunt Lydia. This did interest me slightly because it would take a very talented actor to portray such a complex amoral woman. The psychological aspect of Lydia reminded me of how Atwood wrote Alias Grace.

I think there is literary debate if this is Atwood’s best written work and if it deserved the joint Booker in 2019. I can see why it is controversial because it feels a bit less literary than her other works, but I actually like this. As I get older, I appreciate being taken more of a ride and having less bleak or ambiguous endings . Maybe this is why I do not read as many Pulitizer or Booker prize winners like I did in university. This book is still written well especially with respect to the characters. I had a good time.

Read January 12, 2020.

Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis

My first book of 2020 was graphic novel for children based on history.

I really liked this graphic novel; it’s heavy and well written and drawn. I like the use of water colours and images from historical times. Even though the story is not real history, it is based on it and I believe some of the elements concerning the religious aspect is true. I really enjoyed the folk and fairy stories in it as well. That would be true to the Tudor and medieval era.

The story is a classic one about an orphan who comes of age and learns much about herself. It is dense and has a great cast of characters. I really enjoyed reading this on a wet winter’s day. It’s a cozy book. I hope there are more graphic novels for children like this. I love the historical aspect and would have liked it as kid as well.

I believe the author is planning a sequel which I will devour if I get the chance.

Read January 11, 2020.

Two Children's Books Set in NYC

I finished 2019 by reading these two children’s books.

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright

I really liked this one. It was published in 1941. With the Agatha Christie books and this one, I was put into a real pre-war mood. The novel is quite similar to the Boxcar Children as well.

I thought there was a lot of clever writing and it makes me miss this early 20th century writing style. No one writes like this anymore.

December 29-30, 2019.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

This has a good premise. It was written and set in the 1960s and I definitely thought of “Mad Men” in a couple of moments. There was some fun moments in the book, but I didn’t love it like I did with the Saturdays or other children’s books. I can’t say why exactly. It’s similar to how I felt about Pippi Longstocking.

December 31, 2019.

Monthly Movies & TV – Nov and Dec 2019

I was been watching a lot of shows or movies this past autumn. November and December did bring more some better shows.

Movies

Hobbs & Shaw – I have not seen a Fast & Furious movie in a long time, but we both enjoyed the trailer of this movie way back in the spring. It was fun. I spent the whole time making candied peel for my stollen. It was the perfect movie to bake or cook to.

Murder on the Orient Express – See review here.

Knives Out – Mystery whodunnit kind of holiday flick. Loved this. Everyone did a great job and I look forward to seeing more Benoit Blanc mysteries. I really hope this means the return of more mysteries in theatres and original franchises.

TV

“Midnight Diner” Season 2 – This is such a cozy TV show if you like Japanese shows. I found a couple of the episodes in the season didn’t work as well as Season 1 but I still love this show overall. It has a real ambiance and vibe similar to some sitcoms, but quieter in the Japanese style.

“The Crown” Season 3 – I did find the writing and storylines in Season 3 less engaging than the first two seasons. There was a lack of character development on the Queen. I did not like the “woe is me” narrative that Charles had. Acting is still very good. My favourite episode was probably “Bubbikins” and “Aberfan”.

“Masterchef The Professionals” Series 11 – This is one of my favourite shows. Pure comfort in watching professionals competing without drama.

“The Mandalorian” Season 1 – One of my favourite new shows in the year. “Baby Yoda” (or Not Yoda) is adorable. I love the body language acting by Pascal and the doubles. The writing and episodic nature are tight. Most of all, the music is some of the best TV soundtracks I’ve heard in awhile.