Book Review: Handmaid's Tale

Handmaid's Tale
By Margaret Atwood

This was my first Atwood novel and it was right up my alley. It takes place in a dystopian society. The United States is renamed the Republic of Gilead and the story supposedly takes place in Massachusetts. Women are given no rights beyond those assigned by the men that have taken over society. I know it sounds like a feminism-drenched novel, but it's not really.

The story is narrated by a Handmaid named Offred. She was became a prisoner of the government when she tried to flee the country. She basically has to take part in a ceremony where a Commander has sex with her while the wife observes. The point: to make a baby. That's the Handmaid's only purpose in life.

Atwood's writing is superb and kind of a literary punch to the face. She weaves a story that starts off sort of quirky and humorous, very sarcastic. Despite the troubling circumstances Offred deals with, she's relatively good-natured about it at the beginning. However, as the story progresses, one can identify the narrators' growing interest in suicide strategies. Everything that happens in the story is very vivid and oftentimes quite disturbing.

Even though one knows pretty quickly that the main character is eventually going to be hauled off in a great, big black van, Atwood still makes this a great read through her storytelling. The only problem with the book is that one never learns very much about the society. Atwood gives you just enough information to make you curious, but she doesn't leave out anything critical to the story. Really well done. This was way better than "Brave New World" but in a similar spirit.
Based on this book, you can bet I'll be reading more of Atwood's work.


Louis said...

This is a timely article. Today, The Handmaid's Tale is under scrutiny by a review committee after a complaint by a father whose son is reading the book in his grade twelve class.


Brianna said...

Hi Eva, I just discovered your blog when Nicole left it up on the screen. How weird that you posted this book review today, because I just started that book a couple days ago. Likin it so far!

Eva G. said...

Welcome to my lil' corner of the internet, Bri! And I bet you started the book the day I finished. I actually finished it a few days ago and was slacking on the review.

Mary Nicole Lane said...

Ha! Here I am. One of my favorites, I love the way she ends it with the historian looking back... I can never get enough of Atwood. Her poetry and short stories pulled me through last semester. No kidding.