The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Rating: 5/5 stars!
Page Count: 331
Publication Date: 1985
Date Reviewed: March 10, 2017
For someone who is obsessed with dystopian novels, I am surprised it took me so long to pick up this book, as it is cited as a true dystopian classic! Given what is happening in American politics today, I definitely recommend this book to everyone, not just those who read in the genre.
This book takes place in the Republic of Gilead in the “future” which Atwood set to be about 2005. In this future, most women can no longer have children due to environmental toxins and a staunchly religious and militant faction has taken over the government. Our main protagonist Offred (which literally means “of Fred”) is a Handmaid whose life exists solely to try and produce children for the wealthy and rich. To say women have little control over their bodies in this society would be an understatement.
The Handmaid’s Tale was a great read, written in a poetic nature that explores many contemporary social and political issues surrounding women’s rights. Even though it was written in the 1980s, the book serves as a warning that we must mobilize and speak up before it is too late. Because even small decisions can spiral into mass injustice (as seen when women are suddenly denied the right to have their own bank accounts).
The book frequently jumps back and forth from past to present and does not usually designate who is speaking with quotation marks. This style led me to “feel” and “understand” the narrative better, instead of merely reading it. I really felt the emotions of the narrator and couldn’t put the book down. This allowed me to self-reflect, think deeply about the issues and gain a deeper sense of empathy. I applaud Atwood for crafting a story that effectively pulls the reader into this scary and sad world. Although not pleasant, I live for literature that is able to consume my emotions so strongly.
The Historical Notes at the end of the book were brilliant and made me take a step back and examine how people in the past would react to present day analysis of their societies. This final chapter really helped frame incidences of tyranny, violence and totalitarianism throughout history.
Note that I read this book before the Hulu series came out. But I have since seen the first episode and it sticks fairly close to the book and was overall really impressed. The TV series is now creating new content beyond the book so I will have to add it to my “watch list” so I can resolve some of the frustrations with the incomplete ending.
So what are you waiting for? Go read The Handmaid’s Tale! Or if you have read it, what were your thoughts?