Hag-Seed Margaret Atwood Review

hag seed

“That’s what you do while you hold their feverish hands and stroke their foreheads in the hospital room, but despite everything they slip gently away from you, into the dark backward and abysm of time.”

I’ve just finished up Hag-seed. While this beautiful little gem only took me 24 hours to read it has taken me much longer to get to reading it and subsequently writing about it.

Not that I haven’t been reading at all, I’ve been reading (and listening) a lot. I’ve been devouring all manner of instructional guides to raising this little boy of mine. I don’t think at this point they’ll ever be subject to review though,as I do feel you need to read a great many different approaches to the subject and then pick and choose what you feel will be your personal tenet. Notable mentions though will have to include Steve Biddulph’s Raising Boys and Joanna Faber and Julie King’s How to Talk So Little Kids Listen. Reading these and a few others have been easy – I feel I need this information. Reading for pleasure as such has been a bit more difficult.

We had been so nestled in our little post-partum coccoon. Now the boy is 7 months old though and doesn’t want to be restrained into a cosy cuddle with mama all day. He’s been crawling for a few months now and I had been able to comfortably read a book skimming my eyes up every now and then. Instructional books lead to this activity it’s easy to pick up where you left off. There is no “atmosphere” lost.  Well just recently he has started to pull himself up and stand. Stand and then subsequently fall down. This does not lend to any activity but to keep close watch near by to cushion the imminent falls – assisting to learn to fall on your cushy little butt not straight backwards on to that beautiful fragile head mama spent so long forming just so! Motherhood is a sedatory occupation.

My problem has been that when I do have a moment to read I don’t,which if I’m being fair I do have a few of those moments. Teddy sleeps long and well with no fuss. When I have those moments I tend to not be drawn into anything enough to abandon other tasks for,such as the washing up (or more likely catch up on tv shows). I needed something that would pull me into my chair to demand I sit and finish. Hag-seed did this.

Hag-seed is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series. It’s Margaret Atwood’s retelling on the play The Tempest. I had only read The Handmaids Tale from Atwood (which I am absolutely obsessed with and the recent TV adaptation series). I have always admired her though and have wanted to read more of her work. I’m a Shakespeare enthusiast so this was a good opener for me. I would have to say I felt curious about how this book would actually go about the retelling as to be honest i had only ever thought of the Tempest in its original form and hadn’t actually been that interested in it as a play.

The plot! As soon as I started reading this book I felt completely in awe of Atwood.She has geniusly crafted the plot of this story in a most unexpected way.  One of the themes of the Tempest is “prisons” so our main character Felix (who mirrors Prospero) works in a prison. We get his back story , he is a fallen theatre director, a widower and has lost his only child ( aptly named Miranda). Initially his endgame appears to be to just float into in-existence however when given some unexpected news his mind begins to gravitate to vengeance. I wont lay out the whole story line but i really felt that although with every “retelling” you do have a sense of how the story MUST go to be faithful this took some delightful turns and twists that I really didn’t feel I saw coming. The idea of the story of someone producing a play and then that story playing out in the characters real world life isn’t new but this was enchanting and not the same old same old. Part of this is most likely because Felix knows his life is that of Prospero’s and chooses to produce The Tempest in an attempt to bring life again to his Miranda.

This engaging plot, sprinkled with beautiful prose captured me completely. There were some issues for me – the ending was quick and packaged a little too neat and tidy for me personally (but then i’m not sure there was much choice there). The pieces of “rap” were very clever but did make me cringe a little. (I’m sorry!!!) I know Margaret Atwood has done a lot of research into literacy in prison programs and values them greatly but sometimes there were some very thinly veiled appeals to the real world to keep these programs and that’s OK but these parts didn’t particularly add to the story line in an interesting way

Overall I enjoyed this so immensely and I would recommend to anyone, especially Shakespeare fans.

Dan Brown Origin Review *spoilers*

I just finished Dan Brown’s latest novel Origin… I’m underwhelmed and here’s why,

Spoilers ahead

Ok, so I’m a huge Dan Brown loyalist generally so just know where I’m coming from here is a place of love but ergh this one was just so ? Lacklustre? Bland? Boring???

I’ve read all of his previous books not just his Langdon series and he writes to a formula a very precise formula.

The formula is as follows ( for his non-Langdon books just replace Langdon with main character)

  1. Something is discovered that will majorly upset world politics/beliefs when it’s released ( think fossil proves aliens are real type discoveries)
  2. Langdon in someway is connected to the person who discovered the breakthrough
  3. Person who made the breakthrough is killed
  4. Langdon takes it upon himself to solve his friends death even though there’s no question that the friend has been murdered and the proper authorities are investigating it so there’s actually no reason to get involved
  5. There’s a hot sidekick ( in the Langdon series this characters description hardly even changes)
  6. Langdon and the sidekick discover specific clues that directly relate to Langdon’s speciality which is symbology
  7. The clues take them to heaps of different iconic locations ( think famous landmarks and buildings)
  8. There’s an outcast type villain
  9. The outcast is being controlled by mysterious “big bad” who usually betrays and kills them
  10. Big bad is someone they knew all along and trusted
  11. Langdon solves the case and discovers the big scientific breakthrough
  12. Langdon doesn’t get the hot side kick and nothing’s changed in the world after the discovery in the next book

Okaaay so.. all the books follow this formula and generally I’ve found it’s okay. You do generally know what’s going to happen and the plot twists are really predictable. However I’ve always found his books redeemed themselves in the interesting ideas they are based around.

Origin centres around the death of a futurist who has discovered the meaning of life as such. He has also developed really advanced artificial intelligence which is a super interesting aspect to the story since the AI is a character in its own right and helps Langdon along the way.

The thing that irked me this time was I guess that it’s just more of the same, I feel like Dan Brown tackles these big questions. Science vs religion. On the surface it looks like he’s had some really original ideas but in reality he only ever poses the what if questions since we never see a world where these discoveries have been released. We never see a world where people are living with the knowledge of the meaning of life. Quite often I’ve found myself discussing with friends the ideas in Browns books, which makes for interesting conversations, but in reality we are doing all the hard work ; thinking of all the implications that just don’t seem that critical in the books if they are mentioned at all.

A big part of the formula is mixing “facts” into the narrative. Generally these are facts about history or different religious groups in relation to architecture. These do add interest to the story but they make the reading hard work at times just because you can find yourself sifting through the information for what’s actually relevant to the story. Also I’m not a historian but I do hear a lot of criticism that the facts are quite widely inaccurate.

So basically that’s my experience with Origin. I was pretty disappointed and I really hope Dan Browns next book is totally new and explores the science vs religion debate with a bit more substance and with more at stake but.. the formula sells , so I don’t think it will change and who am I kidding? I’ll be buying it 🙊

My TBR -January 2018

Ok, starting the year off with a very modest to be read pile. I’m hoping to get through these in January but it may well take a lot longer. I’ve just had my first baby, Teddy. He is 8 weeks now and my plan is to read my hard copies when I’m able to and also listen to the audiobooks whilst I take him on our daily walk.

So… I’m currently reading Dan Brown Origin, this is the 5th (I think) in the Robert Langdon series. Lots of people refer to Dan Brown as a “guilty pleasure” I guess due to him being so readable and yet so ?insufferable? The writing is formulaic and this (so far) follows the same formula as always so it is pretty predictable. It’s not particularly well written but the pages keep turning and the concepts are always interesting so I will probably keep reading whatever he produces.

Next up I’ll be reading Phillip Pullman The Book of Dust. I read the His Dark Materials trilogy about 10 years ago and was drawn into Lyra’s world intensely so I’m really looking forward to diving back in.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North. I’ve heard great things about this and it’s been on my shelf since seeing it discussed on the ABC Bookclub. ( I’m actually devastated after ten years the bookclub wont be coming back this year and I cried when the final episode aired lol )

I loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters so hopefully Dawn of the Dreadfuls is just as good.

Andddd lastly, Hag-seed from Margaret Atwood . This is her retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. This is a combination of two of my absolute favourites, I really hope it’s not a letdown as I have such high expectations.

Ok so I’ll check back in with some more thoughts on Origin as I get a bit further into it.