Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: February 17, 1986
Page Count: 325
My rating: 2 stars
About the book:
The Handmaid’s Tale 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 and is 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 in 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 a tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.
Ok, unpopular opinion time. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a book that seems like everyone else had read and loved so this is not even my first attempt at reading but this is the first time I pushed through and finished.
The story is supposed to be a not too distant future for those of us in the US where things much go horribly awry to where the country becomes the Republic of Gilead. In Gilead women have basically gone back to the status of being nothing more than property, actually maybe I shouldn’t even say gone back as Gilead seems even worse than the tales of true history.
The book centers around a woman called Offred, which is not even her name but signifies who she belongs to. Offred is what is known as a Handmaid who’s purpose is nothing other than being a breeding vessel for her owner. As a reader learns of Offred’s current situation in Gilead there are also flashbacks to the before time to give hints as to what led to things the way they are.
Now, my first reason for not being in love with this book is simply I really dislike the style of writing. To me the story seems like a puzzle you need to put together as the writing feels choppy and things are left unsaid for a lot of things I want to know. I would be more apt to believe a world of this making if I were given details as to the whys and hows things came about but instead a reader needs to grasp at hints embedded in the long drawn out prose.
To me I honestly think the author just seemed to write more of the actions within the book for the shock factor and perhaps if I’d read this years ago and didn’t already have knowledge of the plot beforehand I may have been shocked and awed but instead I just felt bored while reading. There’s nothing said or done to get me to believe this could be a possible future for America as I don’t see women sitting back and agreeing to be in this sort of situation. Pushing through the book this time I had the afterthought that I should have kept track of each time I would cringe or roll my eyes at things going on as those were definitely my two most powerful reactions. Oh well, now I know this one just isn’t for me though and I can finally check that box of having read it.
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About the author:
MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; and her most recent, Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize. She lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.