Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 17th February 1986
Genres: Fiction, Dystopia
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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...
I read this book as I live on an Island where abortion isn’t legal, and although the situation to get an abortion is nowhere near as bad as those in third world countries it isn’t ideal. Over the last couple of months, there has been a lot of protesting and parallels have been made between our situation and The Handmaid’s Tale. So I wanted to read it before I waged in on any arguments or online debates.
I have to say that The Handmaid’s Tale is completely different to what I was expecting. The way the story is told can come across as a little confusing, and disjointed at times, and I think it is definitely a book that needs to be read more than once to get the full effect, I would love to revisit the story before the year is out (I may even do a reread review).
The story itself is simplistic in nature and the complexity comes from the politics and religious factors that have overtaken the country. I think when you look at the world we’re living in, and especially on an island that is still warring over women’s reproductive rights, the parallels aren’t hard to find or imagine. I could easily imagine the pro-life group taking it one step further if it ever came about – I could be wrong and might be blowing it all out of proportion but the way I see it if you want to control one aspect of a woman’s sex life it isn’t a push to imagine that you would want to control the entirety of it.
The one thing I wish would have been developed and looked at a little more would be the resistance movement, I think there was a great deal of potential lost when looking at that element and something I think the story could have benefitted a lot from!
I struggled a little with the docile nature of the women, and was relieved when Moira was introduced and we saw that the battle hadn’t been completely lost. She was definitely my favourite character in The Handmaid’s Tale, she had the spark that the other women including Offred had seemed to have lost. I would have definitely loved to hear more about her and her life.
My least favourite character in The Handmaid’s Tale would have to be The Commander. Not only was the situation that these women found themselves in more than horrific, there was a lot of hidden hypocrisy in the actions that he took. He angered me and was a perfect example of why a system like they proposed wouldn’t work out in the real world.
I would really recommend The Handmaid’s Tale if you are looking for a classic dystopian. It has everything really, a hidden evil, the human race in fear of extinction and something to overcome. Like I said previously, I will definitely be reading it again, I only wish I had studied it at school or university!
Have you ever read anything like The Handmaid’s Tale? I would really love to know! I wanna read anything and everything like it to be honest.
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