Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Here is a summary of The Handmaid's Tale from ReadingGroupGuides.com:

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?

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 only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days 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....

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. 


My Review:
This was quite an amazing novel so first let me say 'Hats Off' to Atwood for creating this Gileadean society that should really scare just about any woman alive right now.   This book is a prime example of what can happen when an organization takes away privileges just a little bit at a time.  Notice that I say organization and not country, because these nut jobs that created Gilead basically took over the country and destroyed the Constitution that we are all familiar with. 

The purpose of the handmaids within this novel is to stimulate the population in a society that basically is not allowed to show any feelings whatsoever.  The handmaids are placed in a home of status and the act of creation is turned into a ceremony that is held not only between a man and woman, but also observers to verify that emotions did not come into play at all.  Yes, this is just weird! 

Offred is the handmaid that we are introduced to and we are given a glimpse of what her life was like both before and after the change in society.  I feel her fear as she goes to use her bank card one day and finds she cannot, as her boss comes into an office filled with women and tells them they can no longer work for him.  Rights are taken away one at a time and before you know it she is taken away to a center where they basically brainwash the women into becoming the handmaids.  

Once they have completed their training they are placed into homes and given a certain period of time to become pregnant.  And you don't want to know what happens to these women if they don't manage to become pregnant!  Living in a society that does not allow emotions can definitely cause turmoil and you can see the frustrations come to surface with all involved in this novel.  We have the handmaid who is given the task to only become pregnant and not allow any other light in her life.  The commander who has been given the handmaid is also looking for mental companionship and stimulation.  And let's not forget the wives who have to sit back and watch all of this with open arms.  Oh my, I just don't understand how this could be good for those involved!

Even though this was one of the oddest books I have ever read I really enjoyed it and it really made me think about our current society.  As we are forced to conform to certain beliefs we have rights taken away and all it takes is a little bit at a time.  This would make a great book club selection and I will probably suggest this one to my book club next time we are picking out titles.  With themes of civil rights, survival, loneliness, and mayhem this book makes for a lively discussion.

My Rating:  5/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from the library to read for my own entertainment.

13 comments:

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I need to read this sometime. The movie was intriguing. (And very sad the star, Natasha Richardson, is now dead.)

Blodeuedd said...

I just could not get past that first sex scene, it freaked me too much

carolsnotebook said...

I read this when I was in high school and remember thinking it was amazing. I should go back and read it now.

The Bumbles said...

Oh Jo-Jo! Our monthly live chat last Friday night was a group discussion of this book! You missed it :0( This is one of my favorite books and it gives me the willies every time I read it. Mostly because the society that existed before Gillead is not very different from the way we live now. And the erosion of rights one bit at a time in the name of the good of society leaves us waking up one day trapped in a world that serves the betterment of the few in power and nothing but pain for everyone else.

Ti said...

I read this for book club a long time ago and didn't like it. I love dystopian fiction now though so I may re-read it before the year is up.

Margot said...

I just finished read this last week and I'm having a hard time writing my review. It definitely moved me in many ways. Very powerful. Your review is excellent. You did such a good job. I should just send my readers over here to your post.

bermudaonion said...

I do enjoy dystopia when it's well done and this one sounds like it's exceptionally well done. Great review!

Alyce said...

It really was an amazing story, and very scary as a potential reality. It made me appreciate my freedoms all the more.

Veens said...

I have not read this type of books at all. I will have to shed my inhibitions and try this some time soon.

Anna said...

This book freaked me out the first time I read it in college. It was my first experience with a dystopian novel. Glad to see you were blown away by it too.

Julie P said...

Wow! I don't see many five star reviews. Thanks for sharing....

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Right on review! I read this one some years ago and was amazed at the power. I had never read Margaret Atwood before and boy did she impress me. She has a style you have to be in the mood for though. i tried reading her newest for my bookclub and it was tough. She definitely can attack the dystopian scene and sometimes it's hard to wrap my head around it.

But Handmaid's Tale I loved !!

Excellent review.

jewelknits said...

This book is on my "I Must Read Before I Die" list ... I also notice that it was on the Banned Books list, which somehow makes it even MORE interesting! :) Great review!

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries