October Books of the Month
Today I thought I would do two books of the month instead of one because I am a really, really big reader and this month I’ve read two books which have really moved me in completely different ways.
They’re completely opposites to each-other; one is fiction, one non-fiction. One is a feminist dystopian novel and it should be read by everybody, whilst one is a comedic diary which will change the way you think about one of the biggest corporations in the UK.
The Handmaid's Tale was originally written by Margaret Atwood in 1986, and follows the storey of Offred, who has become a vessel of fertility for richer couples in a post apocalyptic society called the Gilead.
It is a warning tale of signs to come for when women have no rights whatsoever, including the inability to read or write as it is as it is deemed a man's task to think and be knowledgable.
Offred battles with the memories of her former life, a life of normality, where she went out with her friends, she smoked cigarettes, went to university and had a husband and a child,
both of whom she does not know where they are and whether they're alive or not.
In her new life, she struggles with temptation in the forms of lust over men and over rebellion of this patriarchy.
It follows her journey and the wider journey of Gilead, from former capitalist USA to Extreme Christian Cult.
I just love the way it's written- It's so easy to read, you feel like you're there in the room with Offred as she's going through the journey and in her thoughts.
The writing is very back and forth, between past, further past and present. You build up the whole picture of the society and life she leads, and it provides an accurate look into Offred's mind due to the fact that she would be contemplating both her past which she so longs for and the horror-filled present at once.
It takes a look at different sectors of the new society and how they react in this new world order.
For example, the Marthas, who are essentially slaves, and the unwanted women who cannot conceive or are too old, who are sent to clean up radiation following the takeover war, which led to the rise of Gilead. Where they are sent is essentially a concentration camp and death sentence.
The men, however, are either higher-up commanders who enforce laws and run the kingdom or their spies, or other jobs like guards.
It is an incredibly interesting read, looking at the characters and how they transform- how some adapt well to new positions in this strange world order and how others don't so well. I personally enjoyed the many allusions, symbolisms and callbacks throughout this book making it quite a satisfying read.
I picked this book as one of my books of the month because it is honestly a book every person should read.
It is a hideous warning sign of how society could go, but still a very current one despite being written 30 years ago. It still applies to today where women are still fighting for their rights all over the world.
I think it's particularly poignant, considering the current abortion, right to choose laws and the obstructions that women are facing today, in 20 bloody 19!
And, as time goes by, The Handmaid's Tale turns out to be true, of sorts, I've included this GoodReads Review to explain;
'In 1986, when Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale, Ronald Regan had declared “Morning in America,” and society was going to renew itself by returning to the old values. The Christian right, in its infancy at the time, was rising in reaction to the Free Love, and the horrors of AIDs. The 1984 election gave us Willie Horton, and a reminder about how violent and evil society had become. Finally, even though Chernobyl happened shortly after the book was published, the Union Carbide disaster in Bopal, India was still fresh in the headlines—a reminder that even the air is not safe. It was not hard at the time to extrapolate the ultimate end that this cocktail of fundamentalism, conservatism, violence, disease, and disaster would bring, but what Atwood could not know, is how much of her novel would become reality in the world.
Amazingly, twenty years after it was written, there are elements of the story that have become true—perhaps not in the United States, where the story takes place, but throughout the world. The most obvious first connection is with many of the issues regarding women’s rights and religious fundamentalism that are taking place in the Middle East. It was shocking to read in the book that the initial attack on the US Government was blamed on Islamic Fundamentalists, though the story was written after the Lockerbie Pan Am bombing, and the massacre at the Rome airport. While this kind of terrorism was only in its infancy, Atwood’s insight is almost prophetic in the book. When the Murrah building in Oklahoma City was bombed, the initial reaction by the media was to blame Islamic terrorists, when in fact—like the novel—the terrorism was homegrown. The scale of the attack that took out the US Government in the novel is also eerily similar to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Reading this novel in the post-9/11 world can send chills down one’s spine: the novel includes suicide bombings at checkpoints, restrictions of rights in the name of safety, blind patriotism, and an overwhelming belief that there is only one true religion, and deviants from this should be killed.
While George Orwell’s 1984 is often referred to as an insightful perspective on modern society whenever someone puts a video camera on a street lamp, or the government begins referring to negative events with positive doublespeak. Orwell’s world never materialized in full, and likely never will materialize to the degree he created. Instead it is Atwood’s distopia, seemingly outrageous at the time it was written, that became reality. This novel should serve as a cautionary warning about the result of any extremist view taken to its logical conclusion—the Taliban is proof that society cannot dismiss the notions of this book as outrageous and extreme. They have proven in the last decade, a plausible end to the error of letting fundamentalism in any form guide one’s society.'
Furthermore, Atwood comments on the meaning of the feminist book in Trump's America in this article.
'In the wake of the recent American election, fears and anxieties proliferate. Basic civil liberties are seen as endangered, along with many of the rights for women won over the past decades, and indeed the past centuries. In this divisive climate, in which hate for many groups seems on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes, it is a certainty that someone, somewhere — many, I would guess — are writing down what is happening as they themselves are experiencing it. Or they will remember, and record later, if they can.
Will their messages be suppressed and hidden? Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall?'
And the other book of the month is, This is Going To Hurt.
I feel like I've definitely caught onto the bandwagon of this book, as it's quite famous at the moment.
It's spent so many weeks at the bestseller list. It's been rated by all the big magazines. And, honestly, I can understand why the book is so hyped at the moment.
On the surface, it's so easy to read. It's so funny! Like, laugh out loud at the paperback in your hands whilst commuting on the tube funny.
All the stories are completely true (if you've already read it, this should horrify you with some of the content in it!). There are stories which will make you squirm, gag, laugh out loud and cry. This is a junior doctor's diary.
There's a humanity to it that you don't get in most medical books. That being said, it's not really a medical book. It's more about Adam's journey through being a doctor.
You follow his life, his relationship with his best friend Ron and partner H as well as the various hospitals he works in and the working atmosphere in hospitals, as well has how politics can interfere with it all, on every level (it even includes an open letter to the Health Secretary at then end).
This book will give you a whole new trust and appreciation of the NHS. It will make you think twice about complaining about the wait times and it will make you thank dearly every doctor, nurse, GP, surgeon, and anybody who works in the medical field for just working hard and helping people, because they go through hell on a daily basis.
The time at which he is writing about, Adam worked an average 95 hours week. He had no overtime and no overpay.
And, it just goes to show how dependent we are on these people, giving up their own time and not getting paid for it for our country to be able to run healthily.
The stories are hilarious, about things being inserted into various orifices, funny birthing stories and anecdotes about fellow doctors. Heartfelt ones about baby delivering and kind patients will warm your soul, but on the flip side there's also a sadder side here- as we all know, trips to hospitals sometimes don't go as planned and there aren't happy endings every time.
And this book takes us through the good, the bad and the ugly of it.
It's a fantastically moving read.
And honestly, it's so easy to flick through. I started reading it two days ago, and I've already finished it. And I just had to write about it because it's so incredible to read. Because the sections and anecdotes are quite short- at most a few pages, it makes it a brilliant book to read if you don't really read that often, as you can pick it up, read for two minutes and pop it down again- perfect for a busy life too!
So, there we have my top picks of the month.
Please let me know if you have read either of these books, what you think of them, whether you like them and whether you agree with my views or not!
In the comments below, I would love to hear your opinions.
And, also any suggestions you have me for me for books. I'm always looking for new books to read. I have about 35 books on my wish list at the moment, but I'm always looking for more!