The Handmaid’s Tale

I find that there are some books that always seem to be on my ‘to read’ list, yet I never get round to reading them. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale definitely falls into that category; I’ve been meaning to read it for years, but have never gotten around to it until now.

It tells the story, in her own words of Offred, a handmaid in the totalitarian state of Gilead. Rules are dictated by fundamentalist Christian values and any disobedience is punishable by death, or a life in the Colonies, dealing with radioactive waste. Handmaids have one purpose, to provide Commanders and their wives with children, in a world where birth rates have fallen dramatically and children are rare. Offred’s story jumps between the present and past, both before the state of Gilead was created and her training as a Handmaid.

Having now read this story, I cannot quite believe I waited so long because it is amazing. Every page is filled with tension and heightened drama; Offred’s voice is so clear and yet so disconnected, so broken. I loved the way her voice was written, particularly the obsession with words that she has, and the emptiness that echoes throughout the story. And despite having been written in the 1980s the story feels so relevant today. I was gripped within the first few pages and have barely wanted to put the book down since then.

An incredible, challenging, thought-provoking story, and one that kept me utterly gripped right up until its conclusion.

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‘Surprise Me’ Sophie Kinsella

Sylvie has been together with her husband for 10 years, and they have a happy life with their twin daughters. However, when they are told they could have another 68 years together they both panic. How will they keep things interesting for another 68 years? Sylvie comes up with a plan that they should each surprise each other as often as possible. The only problem is that as the surprises unfold she discovers a hidden secret that she hadn’t been expecting…

In some ways this was a little different than the previous Sophie Kinsella novels I’d read, focusing on an established relationship rather than the rom-com format of her previous stories. The storyline also followed a slightly darker path as Sylvie discovers the secret her husband has been keeping from her.

However, like Kinsella’s other novels there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and it was a quick, enjoyable page-turner. I did feel slightly frustrated with elements of the plot, but to say much more would spoil the ending for anyone who has not read it yet…

Not my favourite Sophie Kinsella novel, but enjoyable all the same.

‘Let Me Lie’ Clare Mackintosh

Last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed both of Clare Mackintosh’s first two psychological thrillers, I Let You Go and I See You. When I saw that a third novel was being published in 2018 I couldn’t wait to read it.

Let Me Lie tells the story of Anna, who is struggling through life looking after a newborn baby whilst coming to terms with the fact that both her parents committed suicide within months of each other. That is, until a card arrives through her door one morning with one simple message: “Suicide? Think Again.” Anna’s immediate response is to go to the police looking for them to re-open the investigation but as events continue it would appear that involving the authorities will only lead to danger for Anna and her daughter.

Like Mackintosh’s previous novels this story contained plenty of twists and turns which kept me guessing all the way through. The characters were fully developed and the multiple narrative perspectives created tension which built to a dramatic climax.

I would highly recommend this novel, particularly for fans of crime fiction and psychological thrillers.