The Handmaid’s Tale is not only a radical and brilliant departure for Margaret Atwood, it is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men of its population.
The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best
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.