The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood
Published March 16, 1985 by Anchor Books
Genres Dystopian, Classics, Fiction
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 the food markets who 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, 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.
This book is certainly not what I expected when I began reading it, but as a lover of the dystopian genre, I was told by many book friends that I needed to read this, as it was a classic dystopian. The Handmaid’s Tale is so different from any of books I’ve previously read in this genre, mainly because Offred, the main character and narrator remembers the how the world was before because she lived in it. That is one of many reasons that I really enjoyed this book because she flashes back to “before” and even “during” to explain her life and how things were before and how they came to become as they are now. I will admit that although I loved the book and I really enjoy Atwood’s writing, I read this book slower than I normally do and I’m not really sure why.
So we meet Offred after the world as we know it has ended and the Republic of Gilead has been established and she has just arrived at her new station with the Commander. as the book moves along, she explains how she got to where she is, what daily life is like, what her hopes are about the future and what happened to her husband and daughter. I will admit that the book can be quite sad and depressing, especially as Offred is detailing how the Republic treats women. The Republic has gone “backwards” if you will by trying to re-establish more tradition values and roles of men and women. Offred also explains what happened to the world to cause birth rates to decline which is what prompted the beginning of this dystopian society. This book is also a bit scary because when you really think about the circumstances that led to the way the Republic is formed and operated, it is completely possible that it could happen. The lives of these women is almost unbelievable at times. The book is filled with symbolism and the Republic has taken verses from the Christian Bible and altered them to fit their needs. This book is filled with longing and loneliness, but it will make you, as it does Offred, appreciate the simple things that she once took for granted. The ending was not what I expected, but now that it has been a few days, I think it’s absolutely brilliant and I look forward to reading more by this author in the future. Happy reading!