Book 05: Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid’s tale came highly recommended from various sources until I finally caved and gave it a go. I have always been rather fond of dystopias, and this is definitely a different take on them. Maybe in a way it seems even more haunting because it lacks the distance of say, a 1984, which while still of great importance and still moving and thought-provoking, does make you think: “Well, I don’t think in the light of how history turned out since he wrote it, it’s communism we have to be afraid of.”
Written in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale really doesn’t read like its 25 years old or maybe our world doesn’t move quite as fast as it always seems. Most issues that lead to the dystopian vision of an American society are as prevalent today as they were then apparently: sex-negative feminism, religious bigotry and gender conflicts.
After a coup d’etat in a word of low fertility, the society that emerges is totally ruled by men. Women are no longer allowed to own anything, work or even read. The backbone is a kind of religion that draws a lot from Christianity but is really a political construct (as most religions are, really). Women are either married or, if they are fertile become handmaids, women placed in marriages to deliver children. The story follows Offwarren (the reader never learns her true name), a women born before the change in the regime who has lost everything and submits to what she is put through. She is neither very brave nor surprisingly cunning – she is just a woman in this world and her story is so compelling because of it.
Atwood writes in beautiful prose and while due to stress and other factors, it took me a long time to finish, I always found back into it easily. It flows well but read in too long stretches, I had to put it away because it is heart-breakingly depressing at times, especially in the first half which is mostly a description of the status quo and the past, before the actual plot really picks up.
All in all its definitely a great book, thought-inspiring and beautifully written and while I am always a little suspicious to feminist literature, this one is definitely a great achievement in writing.
Other Books read by the same Author:
- Review: Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale