I bought The Handmaid’s Tale months ago, and promptly left it unread for months before picking it up on the train home during Easter break. I then lost it. I spent a whole term wondering where i’d left it – on the train, at home, at university – before I found it underneath my bed (at home). Still, it went unread until I was compiling my reading list for my holiday, and so it finally got the love and attention it deserves, 4900ft up a mountain in the French Alps.
It was worth the wait.
Offred is a handmaid in the republic of Gilead. Her role is to go and buy groceries for the Commander’s household, and to bear his children. If she can’t bear children, she is worthless. She remembers the time before Gilead, when she had a husband, a daughter, a job, and knowledge, but that has all been taken away from her. The extreme Christian Right have taken over, and with it, Offred has lost her freedom, her name, and her family.
Apparently this book is like marmite – some people love it and some people hate it. I love it. It’s difficult to write a review about a book that you love.
First off, let me just mention that the writing style is a little different, and that initially put me off reading the book. It took a few chapters to get into the flow of the words, and into the world itself.
The novel is speculative fiction at its finest (that is, a situation that could theoretically happen on Earth in this day and age, rather than some crazy sci-fi alien war with zombies and dragons). There’s nothing in this novel which is completely unbelievable – which is what makes the story so compelling, the overall feeling that this could very well be reality.
Why should you read this book? If you, like me, love dystopian novels, or at least have read a few of the more popular ones, this is a good source of inspiration. It almost certainly has inspired and influenced some more modern dystopian novels. It’s one of the more classic dystopians, and that alone should push it onto your reading list. It’s also a great feminist novel, and really gets you thinking about the current state of society, and its treatment of women (which is more than relevant today).
After reading this novel, I think i’ll have a more informed view of today’s YA feminist literature, and i’ll be sure to add more Margaret Atwood novels to my TBR list.