Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

2017 Reading Challenge: Reading for Fun

A Book You’ve Read Before

handmaidIf you’d never heard of this book before, the odds are good that if you live in the US that you have now. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, published in 1985 has seen its sales soar and at this moment, sits at #3 on Amazon’s hourly updated best seller list.

I read this book most probably in the early 1990s and enjoyed it enough to search out other books by Atwood. But I enjoyed it then as a dystopian novel that was just fiction. Just Fiction.

Did she portend the future? With a group of men making decisions about women’s healthcare, her book about a theocratic military dictatorship taking away all rights of women seems more relevant today than it did when I first read it. I read it more carefully this second time around and found it more horrifying.

Written in first person by Offred (pronounced Of-Fred), she describes her situation and day to day activities assigned as a handmaid to The Commander. As a handmaid, her sole responsibility is to become pregnant by The Commander, carry the baby and then hand it over at birth to him and his wife, Serena Joy. What she can and cannot do is strictly regulated with her only freedom being daily shopping trips for the family’s provisions with a fellow (assigned) handmaid.

In between chapters describing her current life, Offred describes what life was like before government was overthrown, her life with her husband and daughter.

Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.

~Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Atwood considers this book speculative fiction vs science fiction because nothing is in the books that either hasn’t happened in society before or that is possible. And there is really nothing too science-y about it anyway. In fact, it seems that society has moved backward in scientific development. Sounds like something that could happen with climate change deniers, the removal of scientific information from government websites and the potential dissolution of some government agencies.

This week, a group of women in Texas donned red capes and white winged bonnets to protest proposed anti-abortion measures in the Texas senate. This really happened. I’m thankful that women and men are outraged enough about what is happening in regard to health care to take action and be seen, and if making a point about losing women’s rights by wearing costumes from the imagination of Margaret Atwood, then more power to them.

The Handmaid’s Tale is not the only dystopian speculative fiction novel to see an increase in sales. 1984 by George Orwell is currently #1 on Amazon’s Science Fiction best seller list and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley has also found some new readers.

Be careful what you wish for.

 

 

 

 

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