The Handmaid’s Tale – the series


Only two episodes left for this series of The Handmaid’s Tale based on the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood. Are you watching? What do you think?

We’ve really been enjoying it. I’m loving it and even my husband likes it quite a lot. It might not normally be the type of series he would have thought to watch but he’s interested in it though finds it difficult to imagine how a society could turn into what Gilead has become. I don’t think it’s so out of the question, considering how many places in the world already treat women in a not-so-different manner. Human rights, especially for women, in some countries, are being nudged and subtly undermined as we speak.

I reread the book earlier in the year to refresh my memory but it isn’t necessary to read it first, I don’t think. There are differences between the book and the series but there isn’t anything in the book that would make you miss something in the series which is doing an excellent job of covering all the details in flashback of the progress to where the series/book started. They have kept to the main points of the story very well. They’ve filled in a lot of background detail which I really don’t want to spoil for anyone that hasn’t see it yet because I believe the series has just begun airing in the UK, you have it all to look forward to, lucky you!

The series has even been renewed for another season to air sometime next year. Mind you, if the series ends where the book did, it’s hard to imagine where it could go. Well, I kind of can imagine it but it would be all new material and would be about what happens to Offred afterwards. The ending of the book left you dangling a bit as to whether it was a good or a bad ending for Offred. Either way, I guess we will find out what happened to her next. Will she ever reunite with her husband and daughter? The very ending/appendix of the book takes place about a hundred years in the future from the main timeline where Gilead has fallen and future researchers have found the journals of the Handmaid which makes up the text of the book. Perhaps they can do the second series from there with flashbacks, filling in the blanks about Offred and the fate of Gilead. It would definitely have to be in keeping with Atwood’s vision.

I also think I heard that Margaret Atwood is considering writing a sequel so if she’s doing that or planning that, she may be involved with the series to keep it synced, much like George R. R. Martin is with Game of Thrones. I wouldn’t want the story to continue if it was just random stories from Gilead. People will want to know what happens next to Offred and that’s where the story should follow, in my opinion.

In the meantime, there are two more episodes to sink our teeth into and things are ramping up!

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Sequel for The Handmaid’s Tale?

There was a new audio version of The Handmaid’s Tale released this week, with an extended ending written by Atwood. It’s a special edition on the Audible site, a very good site for audio books. It’s giving rise to rumours that there might be a sequel in the offing. Wishful thinking? Or was that a hint?

There are spoilers in this post regarding the ending of the book and audio version.

I initially read about this in a post here. The author has conglomerated a few other sources including an article in the Guardian, and on from The Loop, a Canadian site. The short of it is that in the current ending, a university professor talks about the downfall of Gilead from a point at least 100 years in the future from the time frame of Theh Handmaid’s Tale (THT) and the discovery of the recorded journal from a woman named Offred which tells her story, the book as it were. The ultimate fate of Offred is not known. The book ends with the professor asking if there are any questions from the audience of the lecture.

The new audio version contains audience questions including one voiced by the author herself in a cameo. These questions/answers provide two clues to a potential sequel, referencing possible new material and documentation that needs further verification before there can be any further information released about Gilead and maybe about Offred as well. The professor tells the audience they hope to be able to present the new material at some point but couldn’t say for sure. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

The Loop have asked Ms. Atwood about the possibility and she said “I am in consultation with the Professor, but he is being very cagey about this,”  “He evidently doesn’t want to make any promises before he has finished authenticating his new discoveries.”

Hmmm. We know that the book has been hitting the best seller lists again after 30 years due to the upcoming series (I reread it myself) and it’s probably a no-brainer that if the series does very well, they’ll want to do a sequel but fans of THT probably wouldn’t accept one written by just any screenwriter. It would have to come from Atwood herself. Maybe she is going to write a sequel, a book perhaps or maybe she’ll be involved in the sequel though we all know books are better! With the way the political climate seems to be running these days, Gilead wouldn’t be such a far off and unbelievable future and there could be plenty of inspiration for a new novel.

Would you like to see a new novel or do you think it would be selling out, cashing in and all that? Even coming from Ms. Atwood, I’d still worry that it might fall down flat. I think it would have to show us Offred’s fate and show Gilead imploding at some point, perhaps the work of the Mayday rebellion has the ultimate successful effect.

Exciting times.

Meanwhile, it’s just a couple of weeks before the series hits television, April 26 on Hulu in the USA and April 30 on Bravo in Canada.

Update on A Handmaid’s Tale

I mentioned in a past post that Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale is being made into a 10 episode series by Hulu, a cable network in the U.S. There was no word at the time that any station in Canada would be airing it.

This week there is good news on that front. Bravo in Canada will air A Handmaid’s Tale starting April 30, four days after the debut on Hulu! I can watch it legally! Once the series is finished, it will also be uploaded to Crave TV. We have that, but I’m not waiting 10 weeks when I can see it on Bravo. I’m quite excited about this. I have started rereading the book in anticipation. (edited: Finished! Review here)

Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men is cast in the main part of Offred.

The story takes place in the future in a totalitarian society in the Republic of Gilead where a Christian Fundamentalist group has overtaken the U.S. and quickly moved to create a society where human rights are a thing of the past and women are subjugated even moreso. Because of the pollution and increased levels of STDs, fertility is adversely affected and to keep the population from dying out, women called handmaids are used to be the bearers of children. The story is told from Offred’s point of view where we get flashbacks of her life before her current situation including when she and her husband and daughter tried to escape to Canada.  Handmaids are subjected to the sexual act in the presence of the wife of the couple in a ritualistic manner, hoping they will get pregnant.

Offred is attached to a high ranking official who defies the law and becomes obsessed with her, allowing her privileges in secret. The official’s wife is also trying to manipulate Offred who hasn’t become pregnant yet. She’s setting up an alternative situation with the chauffeur to help get Offred pregnant and Offred’s subsequent relationship with the chauffeur could end up making or breaking her. Offred also discovers an underground resistance movement but by the end of the book, her future is uncertain.

Another Margaret Atwood book, Amazing Grace, is also being made for tv. CBC and Netflix are cooperating on this 6 hour mini series about a mid 19th century maid accused of murdering her employer. The book starts off after Grace has been in prison for 10 years though she continues to say she has no memory of committing the crime. The story is told by Grace to a doctor. Margaret Atwood is going to appear in the series in a cameo role. Canadian actor and director Sarah Polley wrote the script with Atwood also having a writing credit. CBC will air the series in Canada and Netflix will carry it globally. There doesn’t seem to be an air date yet though one place I read speculated end of 2017 or early 2018.

Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

2017: 23
4 of 5 Stars
Published July 2014

Kindergarden is a dangerous place, both for the children and the parents. It brings out the worst in people, especially all the parents with their rivalries and cliques. Rumours, lies, and great leaps to conclusions cause more headaches and upset than you would think.

Jane has brought her 5 year old son, Ziggy, to live in a small town by the sea where he’s about to start kindergarden. On the way to the Orientation Day for the kids starting school for the first time, she meets Madeleine who is just turning 40, with a teenager and two smaller children, one of whom is Chloe and who is starting kindergarten. Madeleine has turned her ankle on the way back to her car while berating a teenager for texting and driving and Jane drives her and the two younger children to school. Madeleine then fills Jane in on all the cliques and politics among the school mothers. Later that morning, as the children are leaving school, the daughter of a rich, career woman, Renata, accuses Ziggy of choking her and things for Ziggy and Jane get off to a bad start.

Through the school year, there are more accusations, escalated by unfounded rumours. Madeleine is dealing with her teenage daughter’s relationship with her father and father’s new, seemingly perfect wife, Bonnie. Madeleine still harbours a lot of anger and resentment towards her ex husband even though she’s now happily remarried herself. Her friend, Celeste also becomes a friend of Jane. Celeste and her husband, Perry, have two 5 year old twin boys who have also started school and Celeste also has a secret. Perry hits her. Jane has a secret to do with Ziggy’s father. Eventually, you just know, all the secrets are going to come blasting out of the closet and it isn’t going to be pretty.

The book opens on the night of a school fund raiser where someone has died. The rest of the book traces to path to this night from the orientation day at school to the fund raiser. Added on are excerpts from interviews with the other parents where you can clearly see which ones believe all the rumours and which ones have probably started the rumours. The police are trying to get to the bottom of the death but are not having a lot of luck. Of course the truth to the murder/death is going to come out as well.

I liked the book quite a bit. It is definitely soap opera but I like soap operas. The plot wriggles along the twisty path, placing hints and a bit of cryptic vagueness along the way to see if we can figure out a couple of the twists and then who has been killed and why. I didn’t figure it out. I usually never do with these things (unless it’s blatantly obvious) so I’m usually pleasantly surprised and wonder why I didn’t see it coming.  I liked the main characters, despised the ones I was supposed to and plan to read more by this author.

The book has been filmed as an HBO series currently airing so I wanted to read it along with watching the series. I know there’s going to be differences but now, reading the book, it’s completely cast in my head by the actors I’ve seen in the various parts! The series has been moved from the outskirts of Sydney, Australia (the book) to the California coastline and I think it’s been cast quite well.

IWD: Favourite Women Authors

Meeting Diana Gabaldon

Today is International Women’s Day, so I’m told. It may be as good a time as any to write a few notes on some of my favourite female authors. Number one on the list is Diana Gabaldon. She’s been on the top of my list since I discovered her very first book in 1990, Outlander. I love her style of writing and her characters and their stories are well researched, well written and thoroughly enjoyable. Her ongoing saga tells the story of Jamie and Claire Fraser and their family.

Minor spoilers if you’ve never read the books are included in this paragraph: Nurse Claire Randall “fell” through the standing stones in a stone circle in Scotland to find herself in the mid 18th century during the Jacobite Uprising where she met Jamie Fraser. They fell in love and married. Claire’s healing abilities served her well but also, on occasion, got her into trouble where women that could heal were sometimes suspected of being witches in that time period. During the series of books (8 so far), Claire returned to the future just before the battle of Cullodden but when she discovered Jamie didn’t die in the battle, found a way to return to him. Her daughter, Briana, also has the ability to travel through the stones as does Briana’s two children. (I’m covering a lot of ground here!)  Over the years, the Frasers end up in pre-Revolution America in West Virginian mountain country but get tangled up in the War of Independence.

There’s so much more detail, of course, with adventures galore, villains, heroes and everything in between. Diana has also written a few spin off books and stories about a secondary character, Lord John Grey. The books are in the process of being made into a television series on the American network Starz. The first two books have been aired so far with season three following book three coming later this year. Some people find Diana’s books have far too much detail in them but fans of the books wallow in every word! The television series pulls out the best of the books and keeps to the storyline very well with some differences that are inevitable due to the logistics of film/visual storytelling. Her website has excerpts from her books including the one she is currently writing and there is news and appearance schedules when applicable.

As you can see from the photo, I’ve met her (two or three times, actually) when her book signing tours have landed in Halifax. She’s very interesting and a real joy to listen to. She’s intelligent and funny and warm. She really seems to appreciate her fans and all the support they’ve given her over the years.

I could go on and on about Ms. Gabaldon but I was meant to write about other favourite authors as well.

I couldn’t talk about female authors without mentioning Canada’s Margaret Atwood. She really has become the First Lady of CanLit over the past forty years. She writes fiction, poetry, short stories and recently, she’s authored a graphic novel, working with the artist to create Angel Catbird. I own the first volume and I think the second one is due out soon. Her books span a variety of types of fiction though many have a sci-fi Dystopian theme. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of her best known books and has been filmed once already. A new series is due out later this year, debuting at the end of April in a 10 episode series on the American network Hulu. The most outrageous thing is that there is no apparently Canadian debut for this series based on a classic Canadian book. Not that I’ve heard , yet. And they wonder why people continue to download illegally or buy proxy VPN services to circumvent the restrictions between countries.

On the positive side, her novel Alias Grace is going to be a mini-series and will air on CBC in Canada in addition to Netflix in the US. Another recent book, The Heart Goes Last, is going to be filmed as well. It seems like the world at large is finally realizing the gem that we always knew we had here in Canada.

Some years ago, I discovered a series of books about witches in the modern world. The author’s name is Debora Geary. She wrote well over a dozen of these charming little books, filled with a community of strong women who were the hearts of their families and friends. Their abilities varied from fire, water, earth and air, with different witches having different strengths. Not just women, but some of the men and boys were also witches with abilities as well. One small boy will prove to be the most powerful of them all and it’s a challenge to raise a little one like that! It really does take a village! The books are only available on Amazon Kindle and this page on her website gives you more details on the series.

Anyway, I was gutted when she gave up writing about witches a few years ago but she’s still writing under the name of Audrey Faye. I haven’t read any of her newer series but a couple of them seem to be more science fiction and fantasy  and I think I would probably like them just as much. Her books are “clean”, that is, no swearing, no sex (though it’s alluded to among the happy couples). If you were concerned, you would have none were you to give them to your teenagers, though I think they’d appeal more to girls than boys but everyone’s different.

That’s pretty much my top three but I enjoy books but quite a few women. In random order: Anita Burgh, Penny Vincenzi, Miriam Toews, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Fiona Walker, Sharon Kay Penman, Alice Hoffman, Hilary Mantel, Emma Donoghue, Susanna Kearsley, Gillian Flynn, Tana French, Frances Itani, Maeve Binchy, Barbara Erskine, and Val McDermid.

Canada Reads 2017

Canada Reads is a CBC television show that promotes Canadian writers and books. It sets up a competion of books gleaned from a longer list, which are picked for a theme that changes each year. Five of these books will make the cut for the competition and will each be defended by a notable Canadian. One book will end up the winner with the others eliminated over the course of 5 days/episodes of debates. I was aware of this but last winter I paid more attention to it, and even watched a bit of each day’s debates.

I did find it odd that the show aired during the daytime with repeats in the evening. If you couldn’t watch during the day, you might get the results for that episode spoiled before you could watch in the evening. That was my only objection. It was very interesting though I admit I hadn’t read any of the books. They announce a long list before Christmas and the shortlist is going to be announced January 31 with the debate episodes airing on March 27 – 30 this year. That gives you time to read some or all of the five books if you want to. Mind you, if you aren’t planning to buy the books, getting them from the library might be difficult as there may be a lengthy waiting list for them.

This year’s theme is “a book all Canadians should read” and I would imagine that the debates will focus on why it’s important for Canadians to read each particular book. Judging from the descriptions of the longlisted books, though, some of the selections seem a bit surprising and not something I would have thought would be a book so important that everyone should read it. They’ve also included a variety of genres including Science Fiction/Fantasy and poetry.

The host of the competition is Ali Hassan, an actor and stand up comedian. I only know him from when he was a comedy panelist on the old talk show George Strombolopolous and I can’t remember what I thought of him on the show.

You can delve around the CBC site for Canada Reads here, where there is more detail about the books and authors including past lists and winners. You might find some pretty good books that you might like to read. The page on the site that lists the contenders, the short list and the people that will defend them will be updated later this week after the announcement on Tuesday.

Here is the longlist of books.  I’ve marked with a * the ones I think I might be interested to read. I will be interested to see which books make the cut and who the defenders will be and I might try to get hold of some of the books to read ahead of time. Two months to read five books, I could probably do it!

The list of past winners is here.  If you want to see the video episodes of 2016 and 2015’s competitions, you can see them on CBC’s On Demand video site here.

The ones I’ve read are The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (really liked it), Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis (quite good), A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (quite good).  I’ll blog again when the short list and personalities are announced.

Review: Coronation Street Blog: The Book by Glenda Young

blogbookcover

2017:3
Rating: 5 Star
Published: November 2016

If you are a fan of Coronation Street, you will probably be aware of all the various online forums and sites dedicated to the show, written by a multitude of fans out of the love of the longest running soap on the air now. It’s got a Guiness record to prove it.

One of the most popular websites is the Coronation Street Blog. It’s been online for over 9 years and has a team of writers that contribute to the blog which was started and continues to be edited by Glenda Young, a lifelong fan of the show. The blog includes episode and weekly summaries, spoilers, news, editorial pieces, interviews, character studies, rants and raves. For the book, Each team member has picked their favourite posts and Glenda has pulled it all together in this great book.

It’s an excellent read and a heartfelt tribute to a show that’s got millions of fans all over the world. The team of writers all love Coronation Street even when there are aspects that rub them the wrong way. Event the occasional rant is written with the love of the show running through it like a stick of Blackpool rock. Corrie has been on the air for so long that for most of us that love the show, it’s been part of our lives and we can’t imagine it not being there to enjoy. Websites such as the blog and various other fan sites add to the enjoyment and are very clearly a labour of love, just like this book.