Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale

Wow, I can't believe it took me so long to stumble upon this gem! First published in 1985, I suspect it was originally recommended to me by my friend Jeanna. I probably purchased it right away, placed it on my bookshelf, and immediately forgot about it (as new and seemingly more exciting reads came along).

With Je's recommendation, and the fact that I absolutely loved the other two Margaret Atwood books I've read (Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood), I shouldn't have been surprised that I was completely and immediately sucked into The Handmaid's Tale. Atwood writes what she calls "speculative fiction," and this novel is set in the near future in a totalitarian theocracy which has overthrow the United States government.

The main character lives in the Republic of Gilead (formerly America), which was founded by a racist, male chauvinistic, theocratic-organized military coup as an ideologically driven response to the modern degradation of the country. Terrorists have killed the President and members of Congress, and a movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launched a revolution and suspended the United States Constitution under the pretext of restoring order. They were quickly able to freeze the assets of all women and other "undesirables" in the country, stripping them of their rights.

The story is told from the point of view of a woman called Offred (meaning "Of Fred," referring to the man she serves). She is one of a class of individuals kept as concubines or "handmaids" for reproductive purposes by the ruling class in an era of declining births. Offred describes her life interspersed with flashbacks from the beginnings of the revolution.

This book was so fascinating I literally couldn't put it down. I love anything that gets my brain thinking about "what if" scenarios, so this was right up my alley. Atwood weaves an incredibly believable story with great characters and details, but she leaves just enough up to the imagination. It was really interesting for me to think about how easily something like this could happen...

This book definitely comes highly recommended by Sarah!

1 comment :

  1. I read this book in the early 2000s and loved it too. might be time for another read

    ReplyDelete

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