THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood
Published: August 4th 2016, Vintage
First Published; 1985
Ever since Donald Trump made it to the White House, there have been certain books which have once again become popular due to the content. THE HANDMAID’S TALE is one of those books, and with it’s popularity thanks to the latest TV drama – [K] and *L* decided to give it a read and see what the appeal is!
‘It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge’
Offred is a Handmaid. She has only one function: to breed. If she refuses to play her part she will, like all dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. She may walk daily to the market and utter demure words to other Handmaids, but her role is fixed, her freedom a forgotten concept.
Offred remembers her old life – love, family, a job, access to the news. It has all been taken away. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire.
What did [K] think?
I read this book as part of a readalong with friends so by reading it slower than my usual reading speed I was able to absorb more of the story.
The book was told in a way that made you feel as though the narrator was there reciting to you, complete with their thoughts and feelings at the time rather than it reading as a story.
This is set in an alternative time if the world has changed and something has happened so not all women can reproduce. This has resulted in a military type compound with something resembling a feudal system using certain points of religion as a guide for the law.
I found this to be a very clever dystopian novel and can see why it has been named as a modern classic.
Ps, do not miss the Historical Notes section as this gives further insight into the book as a fictional presentation is given using the The Handmaid’s Tale as a historically accurate record of events.
What did *L* think?
I heard so much about this book, so many rave reviews that I was so looking forward to reading it. I haven’t watched the TV show so had no idea what to expect or really what it was about.
Well I was very disappointed. I was reading this as a readalong for the blog otherwise I am not sure if I would have even finished. I didn’t really understand what was going on or the point of the story.
It is set in an alternate time when something (a war of some kind) seems to have made it hard for women to not only conceive but also once they have for the babies to survive so they have got these women dressed in red to sleep with the “commanders” and create life. Once the baby is born it is handed to the wife and the Handmaid is transferred to another home and commander to start the process all over again. The setting gave me the feels of some kind of cult. Each of the people that lived in this town were brainwashed to behave a certain way, each person had a role and had to wear a certain colour to show the public what they did and who they were. It made me very uncomfortable.
It is written from the point of view of Offred who narrates the story from her point of view but at some point it really feels like she is telling a story as she jumps from one version to another. I really struggled to follow what was happening and who all these different people and their roles were. Offred does jump from the commander and his wife to I guess what we would call the training school so we get to see how the handmaidens are taught to think and feel during the process.
We never find out Offred’s real name although we do know there is a partner and daughter somewhere although we never do find out what actually happened to them.
Definitely make sure you read the historical notes at the back as they are a big part of the story and do answer some of the questions that you are left with when you get to the end. I did quite like knowing what could have happened to Offred rather than the huge cliffhanger that ends the narration. I do quite like the way Margaret played the end.
Although this book wasn’t for me I can see why some people would enjoy the writing style, it’s certainly a lot different to what I am used to. I think it would make a great book club choice as there are lots of opportunities for discussion topics.
Let us know what you think about THE HANDMAID’S TALE in the comments!
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