PAPERBACK; 324 P. VINTAGE CLASSICS, 2010/1985 SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She has only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.
‘The Handmaid’s Tale is both a superlative exercise in science fiction and a profoundly felt moral story’ – Angela Carter
Perhaps considered as a modern classic, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel centering around a first-generation handmaid. Set in the future, the USA has transformed into the Republic of Gilead where the society has taken a step back to the past. The birth rate of the society is low, so the government has issued handmaid’s to aid women who cannot give birth. The protagonist of the story, Offred, is defined by her body and evaluated by her ability to breed. The women in her position are powerless and invisible, but still despised by the wives. For the men, they are merely objects of reproduction and desire.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a powerful book without there being much action. The narration is subdued, almost like the handmaid itself, and this silence speaks louder than the actual events of the book – it makes the oppression feel truly suffocating. What makes the book so unique and relatable is the fact that Offred had been “one of us”; she has experienced the change from one system to another and suffered the loss of freedom. Atwood uses the phrase “Context is all” frequently to highlight how even the smallest everyday actions can carry meanings. The narration of the novel has a jumping timeline so that as the story progresses, we also get a glimpse of how the society transformed.
Though the overall story of The Handmaid’s Tale was not entirely my cup of tea, I definitely want to read more Atwood. Her writing is simply stunning and I was highly impressed by this novel. It explored the society and human kind deeply and profoundly as well as discussed the status of women throughout history. It is definitely “not your stereotypical dystopian book” like MarlinElina said. Marlin posted a great video where she discusses the thoughts raised by this book, and I highly recommend that you watch it (it contains some spoilers, though). I was also recommended to watch the movie adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale by Alexandra from Diverses et Avariées, so I might do a separate post about movie adaptations as I have quite a few I want to discuss.
To conclude my review, I can say I highly recommend The Handmaid’s Tale – especially to people who enjoy reading dystopian books.
“But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest.
Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.”