Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Year of publishing: 1986
I read: Hardcover edition by Heinemann Library
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 food markets whose 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, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if 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...
The Handmaid's Tale is a disturbing and depressing story about a woman being abused and raped by a totalitarian religious regime. It's full of desperation and despair and the world that Atwood paints in this book offers no hope, no solution. It's a world that will slowly crush the will and the spirit even of the strongest of the people.
I can't say that I "enjoyed" this book. It made me depressed and made me question humanity and my place in the world. I was engrossed in it. This book is impossible to put down. Offred is a fantastic narrator, and a very interesting character.
The most disturbing part of the book is not the public hangings or the overall oppression of the people by the militant Christian government, but the way this government has taken everything from the women: their independence, their money, their children and their own bodies. The whole idea of a woman being reduced to a walking womb and having to endure sanctioned rape makes my skin crawl.
The Handmaid's Tale is an intelligent and insightful look at a religious extremism and women's role in society. It's a great book, but it's not a book you'll re-read just for fun.
My rating : 4 stars.
Labels: dystopia, Margaret Atwood, science fiction, The Handmaid's Tale