From One Blogger To Another: The Handmaid’s Tale Discussion With The Blog From Another World

From One Blogger To Another: The Handmaid’s Tale Discussion With The Blog From Another World

Image via Channel 4.

With the hit television drama, The Handmaid’s Tale, currently sweeping our screens, Patrick from The Blog From Another World and I decided to discuss the book and its adaptation.

The Handmaid’s Tale is based on Margaret Atwood’s feminist dystopian novel of the same name, following the life of Offred, a Handmaid living and serving the extreme Christian totalitarian system named Gilead. She is forced to have sex with her Commander each month, in the hopes she will be impregnated with his child and thus continue the population of Gilead.

I’ve only briefly discussed The Handmaid’s Tale before. In a nutshell, my opinion of the novel is that it’s I liked the subverted use of Christianity, which made for an interesting dystopian, but the feminist overtones are overly laboured.

Patrick however, has not finished The Handmaid’s Tale yet.

“I have read part of it, but not enough to provide an honest summation. I think watching this story with very little prior knowledge gives the series a real unpredictability. I will have it finished by the time the series is over though!”

This is not the first adaptation of the novel; The Handmaid’s Tale was adapted into a film in 1990 – a film I have seen, and did not enjoy. I think the decision to move from a film adaptation to an in-depth television drama was smart.

Patrick said, “I think this TV adaptation has allowed the writers to expand upon Margaret Attwood’s ideas and the world she has created. You can dive into the backstory of many characters and give everything a very modern update. I think it was the most obvious thing to do and has paid off enormously.”

The Handmaid’s Tale is not especially a long novel, but its television adaptation has been divided into 10 episodes.

In my opinion, this helps the narrative to be divided proportionally, so that the story is covered at an appropriate depth and doesn’t feel “drawn out”. I also like the incorporation of flashbacks to Offred’s old life, as these both emphasise the pain she is currently in at being separated from her husband and daughter and tie in to the current narrative as she hears rumours her husband may be found.

Yet, despite thinking ten episodes is a good length for the drama, I struggle to keep up with watching new episodes.

In the UK, The Handmaid’s Tale is aired on Channel 4, and available to watch on catch-up on All4.   Channel 4 is notorious for its advert breaks. This is a petty complaint, and not linked to the production of The Handmaid’s Tale itself, but regularly disrupting a show that is full of gripping scenes and high-tension to advertise the latest dishwasher or car completely ruins my immersion in the drama.

The frequent advert breaks have a dramatic impact on my willingness to keep up with new episodes, and this is a real shame.

Patrick also struggles to watch new episodes, but for a different reason.

“I have hit a bit of a brick wall with this series. I cannot fault it – honestly – but it’s just so grim that I don’t know when I’ll watch the next episode.” he said, “If The Handmaid’s Tale was six, rather than ten, episodes long, then the intensity of the rape and violence might be warranted. Instead, imagining another four hours of brutality is not the most attractive prospect now – sometimes you need a bit lighter entertainment.”

However, Patrick and I have plenty of positives to discuss about The Handmaid’s Tale too.

He said, “I have really enjoyed the performances from the cast. Elizabeth Moss has made an incredible Offred, and has created so much depth and emotion. Yvonne Strahovski has also made the character of Serena Joy much more sympathetic and poignant than I first thought. I think that Serena Joy is probably the character I watch with the most interest.”

On this, I have to agree. In the novel, Serena Joy was always presented as a harsh, standoffish woman who resented Offred from the beginning. Whilst this is present in the television adaptation too, we are also presented with a  vulnerable, emotional – and quite frankly, human – side to her that helps the audience to understand her motivations and feelings, and this, I think, was lacking from the book.

Patrick continued, “I also think many of the directing choices have been strong. The complex and jumbled chronology has added variety and context when needed. The writing is fantastic, really delving into the situation with uncompromising bleakness.

In terms of casting, Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia is very impressive and I think Madeline Brewer as Janine is the most complex role. The women have the most material to work with, and the series as a whole is a really ensemble effort.”

The penultimate episode of The Handmaid’s Tale airs on Sunday the 23rd of July at 9pm.

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Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please give it a ‘Like.

If you’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale too, what has your favourite part been?

– Judith and Patrick

[BONUS] Read and Review: COMMUNE by JOSHUA GAYOU @JoshuaGayou #BookReview #Dystopian

[BONUS] Read and Review: COMMUNE by JOSHUA GAYOU @JoshuaGayou #BookReview #Dystopian
  • Title: Commune
  • Author: Joshua Gayou
  • Published: 2017

Commune: Book One is the story of one small group of survivors who must adapt to a primitive, hostile world or die. As they learn the rules of this new era, they must decide how far they’re willing to go to continue living, continually asking themselves the same question daily: is survival worth the loss of humanity?

My Photo [Commune]

When I started reading Commune, I noticed a couple of minor technical issues. There were some grammatical errors, and the narrative occasionally swapped tenses by accident. Also, some words were written with excessive letters or punctuation, like thiiiiiiis????!!!! As a reader, I urge writers not to do this. It may look as if it expresses deeper meaning, I assure you it does not; I read it as this? or this! regardless of how many extra letters or punctuation marks have been added.*

*I covered these writing tips in a different book review last year, which you can read here:

However, looking past these technical issues, I really enjoyed the story behind Commune. It had all the great conventions of a dystopian, apocalyptic narrative – scavenging, survival, and strange encounters.

I was also thrilled at the relationship dynamic between Amanda and Jake. Their narratives begin at different places in the novel, and have separate paths until eventually uniting. It was hard to follow the (sometimes length) chapters that followed their individual stories, but once they joined forces, I loved their pairing together. It was refreshing to have a stronger female character who builds up a close relationship to a male without it being reduced to a love story.

When I first read the synopsis of Commune, I thought it sounded similar to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – an incredibly bleak survival story of a father and his son. Yet I didn’t find Commune particularly bleak. Albeit, there were moments of sadness and occasional danger, but the characters were never really lacking serious supplies and I thought their journey was relatively straightforward.

For a truly bleak dystopian, I would have preferred there to be a serious threat looming over the characters from the start – there were some mentions of an ominous Plague, but I don’t think this was explored enough to be seen as dangerous.

Although Gayou wanted Commune to focus on a human survival story, rather than a supernatural one, I couldn’t help but long for a subhuman threat, like the cannibalistic gangs from The Road or the zombie hoards from The Walking Dead.

Overall, Gayou lays a good foundation for future books about this world and the characters he’s created. Whilst I have my criticisms (as every book reviewer should), this was still a good read, and an enjoyable new dystopian novel.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Commune: Book One is available to buy as an e-book or a paperback from Amazon.com or Amazon UK.

***

Thank you for reading my review!

Many thanks to Joshua Gayou, who sent me a copy of Commune to read for free. His website is: joshuagayou.wordpress.com.

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

 

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (4)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (4)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a non-fiction, Shooting History, by Jon Snow – an autobiographical account of modern history and journalism Snow was involved in. I’ve also been sent another book to read for Rosie’s Book Review Team, Devil In The Countryside, a historical thriller by Cory Barclay. I’m also reading another free book to review – Being Simon Haines, by Tom Vaughan MacAulay.

It’s also exam-season, so as a form of revision, I’m aiming to re-read texts that will be covered in my exams. Here’s how I’ve got on so far:

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I read so much over the Easter break! I read The Seagull, a play by Anton Chekhov, as well some more Stephen King novels of course – The Shining and The Tommyknockers. I also finished the thriller Perfect People by Peter James, as well as The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I also received a new book, Commune: Book One, to read and review for Joshua Gayou, a new author.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

As I really enjoyed Perfect People, I want to explore the works of Peter James, and the thriller genre as whole, further. It would also be nice to read some more classic literature as well.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Terry Tyler

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Terry Tyler

This week, I interviewed Terry Tyler, a writer and blogger who currently lives in the North East of England. She has published 13 books to date, her most recent novel being The Devil You Know, a psychological thriller released in October last year.

Terry is a huge fan of history and therefore loves historical novels. “Philippa Gregory’s historical novel The Other Boleyn Girl is a masterpiece!” she said.

The Other Boleyn Girl is loosely based on the life of Mary Boleyn, the sister of the infamous Anne Boleyn.

Terry explained, “The book was brilliant; I like the Plantagenets, the Tudors and the 17th Century most of all, although I will read about other periods too. I prefer serious historical fiction, not romances, and it needs to be extremely well researched, so that it can teach me about the period. The film adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl, however, was garbage!”

History also inspires many of Terry’s novels.

I read one of these novels, The House of York, a historical fiction inspired by the Tudors and Plantagenets, which I reviewed here:

However, Terry is not only interested in the past, but the (possible) future.

“I’ve watched every season of The Walking Dead three times over!”

She explained, “I love stories about life after pandemics and zombie apocalypses, but they must be really well-written and thought out. It’s how people survive on the breakdown of society, when the world as we know it has gone, that fascinates me.”

Yet being a keen reader writer, it took Terry a while to begin blogging. “Although my first book was published in 2011, I didn’t start a blog for another six months.” She said, “Everyone kept telling me writers have to have blogs, so reluctantly, I started one.”

Eventually, Terry began to appreciate the use of having a blog. “It was a useful tool for me when I wanted to write things other than my current novel-in-progress. Now, I’m a part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I write about all sorts – writing advice, publishing advice, book reviews and other random things that pop into my head!”

Terry’s newest novel, The Devil You Know, was the culmination of half a year’s hard work.

My Photo [The Devil You Know]

“It takes me about six months to go from having an idea for book to finishing it” Terry said, “I write very intensively once I get going – it’s what I do – and I fit the rest of my life around it. Although all my novels have different storylines, they always tend to be character driven and have a good plot twist or two!”

I asked Terry if she had any tips for any other writers. She said, “Show what you’ve written to someone who you can trust to give you an honest opinion, to make sure you can actually write.”

Whilst on the subject of honest opinions, Terry shared her thoughts on positive and negative reviews. “Negative reviews are just as valid as positive reviews because everyone reads a book differently.” she explained, “Even if a book is so badly written that it makes your Kindle cringe, they have the right to tell you so, just like when someone enjoys it, they have the right to express that.”

However, despite the risk of negative reviews, this shouldn’t be scare away a budding writer, Terry says.

“Don’t give yourself any grief; write because you want to write.” Terry said, “Even if you can only manage 500 words a day, you’ll have a first draft ready in six months or less.”

The Devil You Know is available as an e-book on Amazon UK and Amazon.com.

You can find Terry Tyler on Twitter @TerryTyler4 at and her website is terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk.

***

Thanks for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and  don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more blog posts.

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (3)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (3)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Finders Keepers by Stephen King, as well as The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy; if you’ve been following my other WWW posts you’d know I’ve been planning to read this particular Hardy book since February. I only have two books on the go at the minute, which is allowing me to get through both books at an excellent pace.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

If I remember rightly, I finished reading two reads: Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, 11.22.63 by Stephen King. However, I’m sorry to say I’ve also given up on not one, but two books. I’ve abandoned To The Lighthouse by Woolf (in fact, I’m not at all sorry for giving up on this one, it was a disastrous book for me to try and get into) as well as The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Whilst I had read some the stories and found them amusing, I just wasn’t engaged enough to want to commit top reading the entire thing just yet.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I honestly don’t know – at present I don’t have a burning desire for any other books in particular, but I’m sure that’s bound to change.


 What are you currently reading?

– Judith

Read and Review: 11.22.63

Read and Review: 11.22.63
  • Title: 11.22.63
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Published: 2011

11.22.63 is about Jake Epping, a recently divorced high school English teacher, who discovers a wormhole in his friend’s diner. The wormhole transports him to 1958, where Epping begins to adjust to 1950s life, as well as plot to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which happened on the 22nd of November, 1963.

It’s hard to summarise the genre of this novel. I think it’s an interesting combination of science fiction, historical fiction, political dystopia and alternate history. Although I don’t profess to be a science-fiction fan, I really enjoyed the science-fiction elements of this book, because they were not too abstract for the common reader to understand – they felt normal and believable, which I think is rare in books that tend to focus on time, space, aliens and everything in-between.

I also liked the historical and political themes; I studied American presidents as part of my A Level History course, and 11.22.63 provided a decent recap of this. It was also interesting to consider the repercussions of each and every seemingly small action had in the “grand scheme of things”.

Furthermore, despite 11.22.63 being set in a world a further 50 years in the past, the questions it raises are still just as significant today:

  • If you could change a terrible event in the past, not knowing the future consequences, would you? What if this triggers an equally horrific event later in time?
  • Is it better to learn from the past, rather than try and undo it?*

This reminds me of the famous quote by the philosopher Santayana: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. (Reason in Common Sense, 1905), p. 284

I also liked the length of the novel. It’s a big read, and took me a sizeable amount of time to get through, but I was kept captivated throughout and I was glad I had so long to enjoy the book for.

However, I thought there was an unusually high amount of explicit violence in the book – punches, stabbings, broken noses, and gun fights. I’ve read some of King’s horrors that do have high levels of bloody violence in, so on the one hand, this isn’t an unexpected feature in King’s writing. On the other hand, I naively thought those sorts of scenes would be unnecessary and therefore omitted from a non-horror book.

For me, the best part of 11.22.63 was the intertextual references to another of King’s books, IT, which is also set in 1958’s America, and the last King book I read, so I feel like I’m reading his books in some kind of weird order. I completely forgot that IT was set in this timeline, and to be drip-fed clues and references to another plot was really entertaining, although this isn’t a huge feature within the narrative of 11.22.63.

I also found the ending incredibly powerful; it’s rare for me to be strongly moved by a book’s ending (especially as most of them seem to end on cliff-hangers nowadays…) but I felt so sad for Epping, and the Dystopian America portrayed. I won’t spoil the ending for any who may wish to read it, but I was certainly affected by it.

I strongly recommend this book.

– Judith

Please click ‘Like’ or leave a comment, I really appreciate it.

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (2)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (2)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

My current fiction reads are: 11.22.63 by Stephen King – this is carried over from last month’s WWW post, because it’s a huge read – as well as The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

Since my last WWW post, I feel like I’ve finished a lot of books. I’ve finished The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, and The Man In The High Castle, by Philip K. Dick, both of which I’ve now written blog posts about. I finished Child Taken and The Old Man At The End Of The World, two brand new works sent to me to read and review by two new authors making their debuts. I’ve also been reading various short stories and poems by D.H. Lawrence*, and I’m really enjoying his style of writing.

*Hence my starting Lady Chatterley’s Lover – I already have opinions of this book forming, and a book review will almost certainly follow once I’ve finished reading it.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I’ve bought some more Stephen King books (I honestly don’t know why, I’ve got plenty that I haven’t read already, and I haven’t even finished 11.22.63 yet), so I’d like to get round to reading them. I’d still like to read some more Thomas Hardy too, but it’s incredibly difficult fitting everything in, with what I need to read for university as well.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith