The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood is the second book in the MaddAddam trilogy. In trilogies I think that the second book can often have less of an arc than the books on either side of it. I did like this book a lot; though maybe not as much as I liked Oryx and Crake. But The Year of the Flood has a tantalising plot of its own. Atwood does something very clever here to avoid second book woes: she tells the same story she told in the first book, but from different perspectives.

The Year of the Flood focuses on the God’s Gardeners group. Part Christian sect, part hippie commune, Atwood fuses these ideologies together in a very convincing way. In a world where technology and scientific breakthroughs have wiped out most of the natural things from the earth, including a lot of animal species, a group preparing for a ‘waterless flood’ (as in Noah) make a lot of sense. The God’s Gardeners prepare for the apocalypse they are sure is coming by shunning electricity, showers and meat. They learn to live without modern conveniences. They use honey and maggots instead of antibiotics, as they are, rightfully in this case, paranoid about what is really in various pills.

The Year of the Flood follows two of the Gardeners, Toby and Ren, after they survived the apocalypse seen in the first book. Both women have previous experience of the patriarchal society around them, and their life stories are told through alternating chapters. Both women have doubts about some of the teachings of the Gardeners, but the group becomes the only thing that makes sense to them both. Toby is on the run from the notorious criminal Blanco, who had taken a shine to her. Blanco had a liking for killing and dismembering his girlfriends and the Gardeners literally saved her life. Ren, who made an appearance in Oryx and Crake, has been in love with Jimmy-the-Snowman from the same novel since they were both at school together. Atwood doesn’t allow a homogenous ‘women’s’ perspective of events, but chooses to let the characters tell their own tales. I’m glad she chose two characters to do so.

I have been in a reading slump recently, but these books have made me excited about literature again. Now, onto MaddAddam! What do the members of MaddAddam, a group who helped Crake design his new human-like species, have in common with the God’s Gardeners? Crake visits the God’s Gardeners in The Year of the Flood – why is he interested in them? Again, both the character development and the world thought up by Atwood are amazing. I think she is my favourite writer.