The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale - paperback (3/16/1998) by Margaret AtwoodTitle: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Series: None
Publication Date: March 16, 1998
Genres: Fiction > Science Fiction > Dystopian
My Rating: ★★★★☆
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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant because, in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

Overview:

“Ordinary is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to
you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.”

Though perhaps flawed and not totally probable, this book is a terrifying speculation of what could happen to a society little-by-little until one day, things are unrecognizably different. An overarching theme is that as humans, we are able to get used to just about any situation, no matter how horrible.

This review contains no spoilers.

Good:

  • I think this book is one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. I hadn’t heard of it until the Hulu show came out last year, but after watching it, I knew I had to read the book.
  • We don’t find out a whole lot of details about Offred’s previous life, which effectively illustrates just how easy it is to get used to something and forget the way it used to be.
  • There is a creepy and ominous feel throughout the whole story and you really can’t help but be shocked and disgusted at what Offred, her fellow Handmaids, and even the wives must endure.

Bad:

  • In her review of this book, Merphy Napier says that she was bothered by the fact that the explanation of exactly how the Republic of Gilead takes over America is never really explained in full. She says it’s a bit too easy and glossed over. I watched her video review before finishing the book and so as I was reading, I couldn’t help but agree with her, though it’s hard to tell if I would have noticed had I not seen her review first.
  • In the same vein as my previous point, it bothered me that once the Republic takes power, everyone falls into line pretty quickly. For example, Offred’s boss fires her and her co-workers seemingly without much question.
  • It took me a long time and several attempts to get through this book, though I’m not really sure why. I definitely enjoyed the plot, but I found it to be a bit of a heavy read.
  • The writing was a bit too flowery for my taste. It wasn’t difficult to read, just a little too metaphor-heavy, which got annoying after a while. Although, there were a lot of quotable lines in this book.

Final Thoughts:

I kind of wish I had read the book before watching the show because I think that a lot of my love for the story comes from the show, so I’m not sure that my 4-star rating isn’t biased. I’m not sure I would have really “gotten it” had I read the book first. However, I still recommend the book and the Hulu series!


What are your thoughts on the book/Hulu series?

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