The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
The Year of the Flood is the second book in Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy. I’ve often sound that the second book can be the weakest in a trilogy, but this certainly isn’t the case here. In fact, the novel would be intensely enjoyable even if you hadn’t read its predecessor, since it focuses on different characters, leading them up to the same place and point in time at which Oryx and Crake ends. Although Oryx, Crake and Jimmy do appear in in The Year of the Flood (along with several other characters and groups), the novel approaches the story from a different angle. In a way, the first two novels are prequels to Maddaddam, each one providing a backstory for different members of the group whose progress is charted in the final book. This novel tells the stories of Toby and Ren (Brenda, Jimmy’s briefly-mentioned high school girlfriend from Oryx and Crake), survivors of Crake’s plague and former members of the God’s Gardeners cult. Toby is living in the AnooYoo spa in which she worked under a false identity to protect her from her vengeful, rapist ex-boss and Ren is trapped in the quarantine room of Scales & Tails, the sex club in which she worked. The stories of the two women are told as Atwood once again uses her skilful blend of past and present, and they eventually team up.
One of my favourite elements of this novel was the God’s Gardeners cult, a religious sect into which Atwood has obviously put a lot of thought. The doctrines, theological ideas and practices of the Gardeners make their existence seem very plausible, and are clearly a result of meticulous planning and a very original mind. I found myself drawn into the fascinating world of the Gardeners and very much enjoying the daily workings of the sect. Not only this, I enjoyed the Jimmy-Ren romance as well as Ren’s feelings towards Shackleton, one of the fellow gardeners, the relatable though unjustified feeling of not wanting someone, but not wanting anyone else to have them either. The development (or non-development, as it were) of Zeb and Toby relationship was also a plot line that hooked me although, frustratingly, not much is resolved in this novel (fortunately, there’s more to come in Maddaddam). I also found myself getting excited when I spotted Oryx and Crake crossovers- “oooh there’s Jimmy!”, “oh hey it’s Amanda”, “is that young Crake?” (and so on). As I said before, the first two novels are more like two separate books that are merely set in the same universe, rather than being of the same series, and that makes the references all the more exciting to spot. Atwood has clearly planned this trilogy very well, and executes her plan with a great deal of subtlety. I also love the inventive, imaginative world that this novel is set in, but I mentioned that in the previous review.
The Year of the Flood is a fantastic novel, and one that won’t disappoint fans of Oryx and Crake. It’s well-thought out, easy to read, compelling and- strangely enough- it feels very realistic. I’d recommend it, along with the rest of the Maddaddam trilogy, to anyone, of any age.
Maddaddam review to come tomorrow!