Publisher: McClelland and Stewart, 1985
Genre: Dystopian and/or speculative fiction
Book Format: Kindle
Why I Read The Book:
During a chat in The Bumbles Chat Room we agreed to read one of the books from the Banned Books list and this was it.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a close-up look at a woman living in the near-future, somewhere in the United States. The president, the congress, and the constitution are all gone. In it’s place is a theocracy run along the lines of the Old Testament.
We know very little about this woman. We know only a few facts: prior to the change in government she had been married, had a daughter, friends, a job and her own money. Now all of that is gone too.
Now the woman’s existence centers around her life as a concubine to an older man named Fred. Her life hinges on her ability to be quiet, keep her head down and conceive a child. The act of conception is not lovemaking. it is strictly a sex ceremony. Nothing fun or enjoyable about it.
The reader follows the daily life of this woman through what seems like a very gray existence. There is no laughter, no music, no joy in being alive. That’s why everything in the Handmaid’s room that could be used as a tool for suicide was removed.
What I Liked:
1. I like that I liked this book. Dystopian literature is not my genre of choice. Life as depicted in this novel is so dull, bland, frightening, and restrictive. It was frustrating to read and not be able to do something. It was so believable that it affected me, even when I closed down the book. It took me to another world.
2. The writing is so beautiful that, at times, I simply read passage out loud to myself. Here’s a little quote about the difficulty the handmaids had in seeing the world, given their very restrictive uniforms.
Given our wings, our blinkers, it’s hard to look up, hard to get the full view, of the sky, of anything. But we can do it, a little at a time, a quick move of the head, up and down, to the side and back. We have learned to see the world in gasps.
What I Didn’t Like:
There were times that I felt lost. I’d stop and ask myself – What was that about? It didn’t happen often and I think it was just my inexperience with the genre.
My Rating: A-
Yes, to men and especially women of all ages and walks of life. Theocracies still exist today and it’s not that far-fetched to believe it can happen today. When it is suggested that the rights of one group of individuals should be curtailed for the good of the community, we’re heading down that road. When that occurs within a religious community, we are headed straight for the Handmaid’s Tale.
I remember very well the times during which this novel was written. It was the late 1970s and early 1980s. There was lots of rhetoric in religious circles and the media about the strides women were making, particularly in terms of education and employment. Gradually, the word feminism became evil and the idea of taking a woman away from home and family was alarming.
I remember the ideas of people like Pat Robertson and Phyllis Schafly. I recalled those times as I read The Handmaid’s Tale and I imagined Margaret Atwood listening to those ideas as well. My hunch is that Margaret Atwood said, “What would happen if these people got what they wanted? Let me show them what life would be like if we took this to the extreme.”
The ideas of woman anywhere but at home has not died down. There are still very strong forces at work in our country and around the world working to keep woman in a subservient role. The scariest part about reading The Handmaid’s Tale is that it could very well happen.
The Handmaid’s Tale is the final book in my Woman Unbound Challenge.
Check your local library for a copy of this book. The Handmaid’s Tale is still available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)