Over the years I’ve twice begun this dystopian feminist vision, and twice given up on it – a thing I rarely do with a novel – as woodenly predictable. Seventeenth century Massachusetts garb and post holocaust premise don’t help, striking me as lazily unimaginative in the way Michael Rosen had in mind with his blank verse on fascism:
I sometimes fear that
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress
worn by grotesques and monsters
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.
I’ll hang on in though. I have this sneaking worry, you see, that maybe I cheated on myself with the book, and should have hung on in there too. (As a boy I never gave up on any story once I’d started reading, always giving benefit of doubt till final page.) And maybe Ms Moss and Co can convince me this dreary tale does more than mix Orwell and Marge Piercy, though I’ll eat my keyboard if it lives up to Wollaston’s best-of-the-year hype. We’re currently seeing a golden age of TV drama, not least due to the strong female characterisations underpinning such as Happy Valley, Line of Duty and Hollow Crown. All – including the Shakespeare, thanks to state of art recording and splendid acting (Sophie Okonedo’s Margaret of Anjou!!) drawing out the power of the language with no loss in subtlety – are a far cry from what seems to me, though I’ll try to keep an open mind, the heavyhandedness of Margaret Atwood’s theocratic nightmare.