The Handmaid’s Tale
By Margaret Atwood
I was recommended this book by my creative writing teacher, to get a feel of writing in the future. So here is my review:
This book is based in the future, after a shift in the government leads to a series of events, eventually leading to women losing their legal rights. A group of women- called handmaids- are are solely seen as baby making creatures and must obey all rules set to them. The women are allocated a family (husband and wife) of a higher class which they must bear a child for them. If not then they are killed. We see this world through the eyes of Offred- this is not her real name, but women are given new identities with the role.
Whilst reading this book I felt as if I was placed in a new country which I had to find my way around. As the book went on, the narrator fed me pieces of information which I used to connect the dots of what the situation.
What we learn is one day the government decided to stop women working and earning their own keeps, the situation escalates from there, until the point that women no longer have their own rights. Offred-the protagonist-narrates the book, she once had a basic (‘normal’) life, with a husband, daughter and a job at a library. Her simplicity makes her relatable. I felt a connection with her as she described her surroundings and thoughts. She showed vulnerability and curiosity as she absorbed information from the characters around her. I particularly liked the moments she looked back at the past, which we know as the freedom of modern western life, opening my eyes to the simple things we take for granted and how quickly society can change.
The book left me as confused as Offred, I was left wondering how an extreme situation came to place so suddenly, the book shows feminine oppression at its worst, possibly what Margaret Atwood wanted the reader to feel. Lost, confused, trying to figure out how these women went from living what we know as a normal life to almost imprisonment.
The author explores women from the eyes of society, of men and the way women look at themselves individually. I loved the way men and women were placed into categories, for instance with women there were the wives (who were on top of the ‘woman-chain’), the handmaids (such as Offred) and jezebels (seen as the lowest in society) it made the split which is visible in every society so obvious.
Overall this book does require deep comprehension (what would I do without the internet). I did feel empty when the book ended, as if questions were not answered, then again in such an extreme society, there are always questions which always linger. I would recommend this book to anybody, particularly women. The concept is mind blowing, with so much food for thought. I must warn you it does require commitment and a little studying.
I thought this quote –from the book- summed up my thoughts on the story
‘Truly amazing what people get used to, as long as there are compensations’