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The Handmaid's Tale

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The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-f The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America gives full rein to Margaret Atwood's devastating irony, wit and astute perception.


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The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-f The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America gives full rein to Margaret Atwood's devastating irony, wit and astute perception.

30 review for The Handmaid's Tale

  1. 3 out of 5

    Kate

    It's been almost five years since I wrote my review. I've rewritten large parts of it for clarity. The main idea remains the same. Extremist Judeo-Christian beliefs have won America's culture war. Now women have no rights. They are slaves to men and the biblical, patriarchal society in which they live. The Handmaid's Tale is the first-person account of one of these enslaved women. Massachusetts Turns Into Saudi Arabia? More than thirty years have passed since The Handmaid's Tale was first publish It's been almost five years since I wrote my review. I've rewritten large parts of it for clarity. The main idea remains the same. Extremist Judeo-Christian beliefs have won America's culture war. Now women have no rights. They are slaves to men and the biblical, patriarchal society in which they live. The Handmaid's Tale is the first-person account of one of these enslaved women. Massachusetts Turns Into Saudi Arabia? More than thirty years have passed since The Handmaid's Tale was first published in 1985, but many still think of it as the go-to book for feminist fiction. It makes numerous "best of" lists, the kinds with 99 other books everyone should read before dying. Even so, The Handmaid's Tale frustrates me a lot—and not only because it contains run-on sentences and needlessly abandons quotation marks. (This is no train wreck like José Saramago's Blindness, but it's bad enough.) Simply put, if you can ignore whether you agree or disagree with Margaret Atwood's ideas about politics, religion, and women's rights, the plot and setting make no sense. The religiosity of the Reagan era inspired Atwood's dystopia, in which fundamentalist Christians have taken over society. While that premise does give me the heebie-jeebies, Atwood’s taken the idea to a literal extreme to make a point. This ruins the foundation of The Handmaid's Tale because most American fundies would balk at this world. Atwood imagines the extreme of the extreme and in the process completely misunderstands American evangelicalism. I'm a heathen bastard and no fan of religion. Fundamentalism has hurt people, particularly women, for millennia. Extremism continues to hurt people every day, especially in some parts of the world, especially in some states. Even so, it's hard to accept Atwood's dystopia when it's set in the U.S., in the near future—and in Massachusetts, one of the most progressive states in the country, one of only sixteen states in the union with state constitutional protections for abortion (since 1981, I believe). Massachusetts is a liberal bastion when it comes to American women's reproductive rights, so it's an odd setting for this brand of nightmare. In recent decades, Massachusetts is also one of the least religious states, so it's an odd setting for a theocracy, too. Atwood chose Massachusetts for its puritanical history. I can embrace the connection to the Reagan administration, in the same way I can embrace Orwell's fear of communism in 1984, but to imagine an unchanging, puritanical Massachusetts requires a bit too much. Societies Don't Change Overnight The Handmaid's Tale is told in first person by a woman who’s lived in our present day (more or less), as well as in this dark fundamentalist Tomorrowland. She’s gone from wearing flip-flops and sundresses to a full-body religious habit, color-coded red to match her subservient role. She was married once, had a child. Now she’s another’s property, one of the handmaids sent from one man’s house to another. The hope is that she will become pregnant when a prominent man’s wife cannot. Her life has been flipped and made forfeit. She lives in fear and depression and abuse. This is meant to make me unnerved, and it does. But. Simply because an author wants to comment on society doesn’t mean he or she can ignore important, logical story elements. The logic part should be emphasized here, I think, given this is supposed to be science fiction, not fantasy. (Although Atwood does insist The Handmaid's Tale is speculative fiction, because that further legitimizes her story...or something? Never mind that sci-fi and fantasy are types of speculative fiction.) There’s a question I have that never gets answered, not properly at least. How did this happen so quickly? How did we go from "burning bras" to having every part of our lives regulated? Why did it take Massachusetts decades, centuries, to reject puritanism, but only a few years(?) to reject liberalism? Rights can erode, but you don’t see it happen on such a large scale and so seamlessly, and not overnight. Nothing happens overnight, especially not governmental takeovers in relatively stable, secular societies, which is the book's scenario. Societies evolve, one way or another, usually rather slowly. Civil, moral, and regime changes don't sneak up on you. It wasn't the case in Germany before Hitler, in China before Mao, in Afghanistan before the Taliban, in Syria before its civil war. It's not the case in 2016, with people like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump leading in GOP primary polls. The world may be disappointing and horrible sometimes, but it is rarely surprising. If Atwood had built her dystopia on a chain of events that occurred over a longer period of time, or explained how everything unraveled so quickly, I might have been on board with the premise. That isn't how The Handmaid's Tale is written, though. The explanations for the sudden changes are fantastical, at best, dependent on evil, digitized money—be careful with the mobile payments and bitcoins, ladies!—and misogynistic, conservative conspiracies that readers are to believe could bring millions of people to a stupefied halt and change culture in the blink of an eye. (view spoiler)[Apparently it’s easy to gun down all of Congress while it’s in session. Who knew? (hide spoiler)] I don’t buy it. You can change laws all you want, but society, culture, has to be willing to follow the most drastic changes. (This is why the American Drug War has never worked, why prohibition of alcohol never worked, why banning abortion didn't work.) Why was modern American society so willing to enslave women? Atwood chucks a plot point at you here or there, hinting at a larger, more complex world through her main character. There’s a vague fertility crisis (of course). There's conflict somewhere between some people about some stuff, but details are never given. Some of this can be excused, what with the limited point of view, but not all. Plot holes aren't mysterious or clever. They're just plot holes. By the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, I feel the book is less an exploration of religious extremism and feminism than it is a narrative written for shock value. It’s an irrational feminist’s fears exposed, that the world is out to get you at every turn—especially the men, especially the women controlled and brainwashed by the men. Nowhere is safe. Overall, the summary for this book could be this: Almost anyone with a penis is mostly unfeeling and evil, deep down. (The rest are idiots, I suppose.) He doesn’t care. He will betray you at the first opportunity. Even when you're dead and gone, he will chuckle at your misfortune and demise. No, this isn’t sexist or a generalization. Of course not. Not at all. Except it is. Asides - For a slightly more accurate portrayal of American Christian fundamentalism and its very awkward relationship with women, see Hillary Jordan's When She Woke . It makes several nods to The Scarlet Letter and The Handmaid's Tale—and better understands its villains and their behavior. - Two nonfiction books, Jenny Nordberg's The Underground Girls of Kabul and Ned & Constance Sublette's The American Slave Coast: The History of the Slave-Breeding Industry , will show you what it's really like to live in a society where women are chattel. - Some think that because I dislike this book I'm not a feminist, or am a bad feminist. I hate to break it to everyone, but Margaret Atwood is not feminism's god, and The Handmaid's Tale is not a religious text. If I must attach labels to myself, feminist would be one of them, and I'll say and think whatever I damn well please. And as a feminist, I hate how one-dimensional the men are in this book, just as much as I hate how one-dimensional women are in far more books, TV shows, and movies. Deal with it. Or don't. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  2. 3 out of 5

    Stephanie *Very Stable Genius*

    7/7/17 I'm just going to leave this here.... fuck Paul Ryan.... but not literally, ew. Sleeveless women? My stars and garters! 03/31/17. So, this Russia thing.... Am I right? 2/5/17.....just another giant step towards making this book a reality, like they always dreamed of. Original review written in 2o12: WARNING: This review is being written after I worked a 13 hour day, with another one on the horizon tomorrow, and a glass of wine and while watching the Rachel Maddow show. Current events have put 7/7/17 I'm just going to leave this here.... fuck Paul Ryan.... but not literally, ew. Sleeveless women? My stars and garters! 03/31/17. So, this Russia thing.... Am I right? 2/5/17.....just another giant step towards making this book a reality, like they always dreamed of. Original review written in 2o12: WARNING: This review is being written after I worked a 13 hour day, with another one on the horizon tomorrow, and a glass of wine and while watching the Rachel Maddow show. Current events have put this book on the forefront of my mind, and damn it I got to get this out. I have never written a review on The Handmaid's Tale because I love the book, and it is so hard to write about a book you love. Ehh, what the hell. OfFred was a normal everyday woman with a career, a name, a life like all women have come to expect and take for granted in this age. When the Religious Right came into power, they began to put into practice their insane beliefs which strip women of their identity, their rights, their body, their very name. Women are to be called Of(whatever asshat they belong to), instead of, say Beatrix. Reproduction is an issue because all the toxins in the environment have rendered many women infertile. But if you are fertile, woe to you, you get to be a baby factory against your will, get promised to some jerk you don’t love or even like because someone deemed him important enough to breed. Oh, come on! This book was written in 1986, FYI. I thought it was scary and sort of possible when I first read it, but farfetched. This could NEVER happen in the United States of America. Never would it be allowed to happen here, we are too educated. So……… I turn on the news (in twothousandandfrikntwelve) and certain religious factions on the right are trying to defund Planned Parenthood, because they perform abortions which is only 3% of what they do (with NO federal $ going towards them). Mostly PP provides healthcare to women who wouldn't get it otherwise………..icky poor women. Now it’s birth control? Seriously? Birth control??????? Did I wake up in 1950? Am I stuck in a Atwood novel? 98% of Catholic women (technically I’m one of them) use/used birth control. Even they are asking WTF? I’m not sure what these people are trying to do. There are more women than men and we vote……unless that’s the next right on the chopping block. ------------------------------------------------------------ There have several updates to this review that I have removed to make room for the next. what follows is the most recent one. ------------------------------------------------------------ It’s been nearly a week since the unimaginable happened and I had to let the shock wear off before I could put a coherent, non-rage filled update on this review. Not that I don’t have rage, I have plenty to spare, but I think it’s now at a level that is manageable enough for me not to just type out a string of obscenities. That being said… Update 11/14/16: An unqualified, racist, xenophobic, sexist, pathological liar, psychopathic reality star was elected to be the 45th president of the United States and the leader of the free world. FUCK! The United States has officially shat the bed. Few foresaw it, but in hindsight, it was coming down the road for a very long time. The United (divided) States voted for Hillary Clinton on whole (popular vote) by over 2,000,000 votes and counting (millions are still out in California, for example), yet Donald Trump is our president elect (gag) due to an antiquated electoral college system (which I could explain, but I’m not because Google can do that better than I can.) Now, I’m all for ditching the electoral college, unless the electors decide to do what it was intended to do under this circumstance; to save us from ourselves. See, our founding fathers knew that we would fall for some con artist, demagogue at some point in the future, so they wisely created the electoral college, a group of actual human beings trusted upon to stop such a calamity. I implore the folks of current electoral college recognize this election as a collective loss of sanity of less than a quarter of the population of this nation, and on December 19th put their votes towards the popular vote winner, Hillary Clinton. I realize that this is unlikely, but one can dream. How did this happen? There are many factors involved. Lots of opportunity for pointing fingers and fighting amongst ourselves, which I will admit to being a party to…..guilty. But, in my opinion, what it boils down to is these four things: Division, misinformation, apathy and fear of the ‘other’. Division: We are all in our own comfortable bubbles, digesting the information we are most comfortable with. For example, I never believed there was this much hate it this country because I didn't want to look at it; I knew it was there of course, but not at the level that it appears to be. Everyone wants to live where they feel they belong. Amongst those that are like minded and reaffirm your very rightness. Liberals don’t want to live in Indiana (or Ohio….sigh) any more than a conservative want’s to live in Washington state. We even do this in our social media as well (guilty again). This is what messed us up with the electoral college. Misinformation: I am not going to tell you who’s right or wrong here, I’ll let this study speak for itself. Apathy: Half…HALF… the country didn’t vote. You guys suck. Fear of the other: This country harbors more racism than I can comprehend. The white people in this country seemed a little angry about the black man in the white house and the white men were staunchly determined not to have a woman (white or not) follow him. I don’t mean all white men, just too many of them (chill.) “The advantage for Trump among men is larger than the 7-point advantage Romney had in 2012 and much different than in 2008, when men preferred Obama over McCain by a single point.”-PewResearchCenter. But then there are the white women, 53% went for Trump…..oh my sisters, I have no words. Which brings me to the reason why this update is relevant to this review and to this book (for those who tell me that my opinion is unwarranted....again.) Is the United States a more racist country, or a more sexist country? America has spoken, at least the ones who cared to speak, and the answer is “a goodly amount of both”, but in this election sexism won and women lost.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Pollopicu

    I guess Atwood doesn't believe in quotation marks.. I don't think I've ever come across a novel yet in which there is no distinction between the narrator and the character. It took me quite a while to get used to that type of style of writing. I had to go back and re-read sentences again and again, which doesn't really lend itself to a relaxing reading experience, and it slowed me down quite a bit.. First 100 pages: Really annoying..why? well because I felt like a juicy bone was being waved in fro I guess Atwood doesn't believe in quotation marks.. I don't think I've ever come across a novel yet in which there is no distinction between the narrator and the character. It took me quite a while to get used to that type of style of writing. I had to go back and re-read sentences again and again, which doesn't really lend itself to a relaxing reading experience, and it slowed me down quite a bit.. First 100 pages: Really annoying..why? well because I felt like a juicy bone was being waved in front of my face. Like when someone asks you, "guess which celebrity died today?" and you ask, "who?" and they say, "well why don't you guess?" and you answer "I don't know, I give up, just tell me", and this keeps going back and forth, back and forth, and finally you just want to say, "forget it, it's not even worth it" and walk away. That's how I felt reading this book. Kinda like Atwood was being childish about withholding the plot information because it gave her literary power and control over the reader, and keeps them hostage. Then I couldn't ignore this overwhelming feeling that the philosophy of this story was going to be something that didn't sit well with me. However, I slowly realized it was just a typical novel, with no outstanding profundity whatsoever. One of the reasons I despise contemporary literature, and basically ceased reading it years ago is because contemporary writers almost always, almost 100% of the time, revert to the all-essential shock value elements, what I like to call the "cheap grabber". In the back cover of "The Handmaids Tale", it goes on to say: "Atwood takes many trends which exist today and stretches them to their logical and chilling....blah, blah, blahhhhhh..." ...and let me just state that I noticed the review by Newsweek long after I had already started reading the book. It was probably noticed during one of those moments of frustration where I single-handedly flipped the book around wondering, "whatthefuckingfuck?". I'll give you a perfect example of how she used this "trend". I'm reading about women in habits, who seem to be pious and obedient, living in the Republic of Gilead. They walk with their heads bowed down, two by two whispering words to each other, such as "blessed be", "may the Lord Open" and "I receive with joy". And this goes on say for about 100 pages or so. Then suddenly out of the blue you read, "He's fucking me". Now it's not that I don't like the word "fuck". In fact I LOVE the word "fuck". Not as in "I like to fuck", but as in, "Fuck, my food is burning", or "Fuck, I got my period on the mattress again". So it's not like I'm a "fuck" prude, cause I'm not. It's just that it didn't seem to fit in with the theme of the book and it was cheaply thrown in for shock value to keep up with the "trend". Now can anyone sit there and tell me Atwood couldn't have better and more eloquently described that scene? Halfway through the book, I stopped and assessed what I had gotten from it so far.. still nothing. It certainly had moments of intrigue, I give it that much. Of course it had to have had intrigue because it's a pretty popular book. But Atwood's writing from the beginning is so flawed. It's as if it went straight from her hands to publishing without being proof-read or edited. I'm not a writer, but I am a reader, and I think I'm certainly capable of recognizing whether a book flows or not, and this book just doesn't flow at all. And what pisses me off the very most is that Margaret Atwood is presently supposed to represent one of Canada's top leading modern authors. Just because a book sells a lot doesn't mean squat. It's just a trend, a fad. It's like when The Philadelphia Inquirer stated that "PUSH a novel" might find a place in the African American Literary canon. I was like, WHAT!!?? are you kidding me? that shit? no effin way, no. Look at The Davinchi Code. Yes, I enjoyed the novel a lot, but I also recognize that Dan Brown probably won't be included as part of the American literary canon in 100 years either. Margaret Atwood, in my humble opinion is not the greatest of writers. I've seen reviewers on goodreads who are better at writing than she is. The only decent thing about this novel was the story-line, and even that seemed like Daniel Steel fluff. Oh and the other thing that got me was that the entire female democracy has fallen apart and all Of-Fred could think of was her need to have sexual intimacy with a man. Not to mention that she never seemed appropriately upset about the fact that her husband and daughter have been taken from her. Has Maragaret Atwood ever seen the Movie Red Dawn with Patrick Swayze? The wolverines? c'mon, man!! The other major problem with this novel is that there were so many questions unanswered. What political reason behind the president day massacre? Who were these people? why were women targeted? Why didn't women (and their men) fight back? Those are questions I'm asking just to humor the book. At this point, the book was so leaky that It's not even worth asking questions about, because there aren't any answers. I thought this book was going to have some psychological depth, but to me it was just like reading a cheap novel. I can go on and on about other things that make this not a great novel, but it's not even worth it. I'm extremely disappointed.. I thought this was going to be one of the good ones.

  4. 3 out of 5

    Emily May

    There are only a small handful of books that have affected me in a REALLY personal way. In a way that I always try to put into words and always, ultimately, fail. I have read a lot of books over the years and I've liked many, disliked plenty too, loved and hated a smaller amount... but out of the thousands I've read, there's less than ten - maybe even less than five, now I think about it - that honestly hit me so hard that I would go so far as to say they changed me. The Handmaid's Tale is a book There are only a small handful of books that have affected me in a REALLY personal way. In a way that I always try to put into words and always, ultimately, fail. I have read a lot of books over the years and I've liked many, disliked plenty too, loved and hated a smaller amount... but out of the thousands I've read, there's less than ten - maybe even less than five, now I think about it - that honestly hit me so hard that I would go so far as to say they changed me. The Handmaid's Tale is a book that changed my life. I know, I know, big dramatic statement to make. I hear you. And normally I wouldn't say that, even about books I give five glowing stars; but with this book it is nothing short of the truth. This book was the spark that turned me into a feminist. It was the spark that made me interested in gender politics and, through that, politics in general. One of my favourite teachers in the world gave me this book and said "I think you'll like this one." She was so wrong. I didn't like this book; I loved it. And I hated it. I lost sleep over it. I lived in it. I was so completely absorbed into this world, into this dark but oddly quiet dystopian reality. There is something about the tone of Atwood's novels that works like a knife to my heart. Quiet, rich, the drama just bubbling under the surface of the prose. Atwood doesn't waste words, she doesn't sugarcoat her stories with meaningless phrases, everything is subtle and everything is powerful. This dystopia is a well-told feminist nightmare. An horrific portrait of a future that seems far too reminiscent of aspects of our own society and its very real recent history. The best kind of dystopian fiction is, for me, that which convinces me this world might or could happen. Atwood's world-building may be sparse and built up gradually as the story unfolds, but she slowly paints a portrait of stifling oppression and injustice that had me hanging on her every word. For someone like me who was so caught up in Offred's experiences, this book was truly disturbing. In the best possible way. There are so many themes and possible interpretations that can be taken from this book - plenty of which I've literally written essays on - but I'll let new readers discover and interpret the book for themselves. I will issue you one warning, though: the ending is ambiguous and puts many people off the book. But, for me, it's one of the very few cases where an open ending has worked 100%. It made the story even more powerful, in my opinion, and guaranteed I would never be able to forget Offred and, indeed, this whole book. “We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” Blog | Leafmarks | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

  5. 3 out of 5

    Jennifer

    (edited from a paper I wrote in college about the book) In 1986, when Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale, Ronald Regan had declared “Morning in America,” and society was going to renew itself by returning to the old values. The Christian right, in its infancy at the time, was rising in reaction to the Free Love, and the horrors of AIDs. The 1984 election gave us Willie Horton, and a reminder about how violent and evil society had become. Finally, even though Chernobyl happened shortly (edited from a paper I wrote in college about the book) In 1986, when Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale, Ronald Regan had declared “Morning in America,” and society was going to renew itself by returning to the old values. The Christian right, in its infancy at the time, was rising in reaction to the Free Love, and the horrors of AIDs. The 1984 election gave us Willie Horton, and a reminder about how violent and evil society had become. Finally, even though Chernobyl happened shortly after the book was published, the Union Carbide disaster in Bopal, India was still fresh in the headlines—a reminder that even the air is not safe. It was not hard at the time to extrapolate the ultimate end that this cocktail of fundamentalism, conservatism, violence, disease, and disaster would bring, but what Atwood could not know, is how much of her novel would become reality in the world. Amazingly, twenty years after it was written, there are elements of the story that have become true—perhaps not in the United States, where the story takes place, but throughout the world. The most obvious first connection is with many of the issues regarding women’s rights and religious fundamentalism that are taking place in the Middle East. It was shocking to read in the book that the initial attack on the US Government was blamed on Islamic Fundamentalists, though the story was written after the Lockerbie Pan Am bombing, and the massacre at the Rome airport. While this kind of terrorism was only in its infancy, Atwood’s insight is almost prophetic in the book. When the Murrah building in Oklahoma City was bombed, the initial reaction by the media was to blame Islamic terrorists, when in fact—like the novel—the terrorism was homegrown. The scale of the attack that took out the US Government in the novel is also eerily similar to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Reading this novel in the post-9/11 world can send chills down one’s spine: the novel includes suicide bombings at checkpoints, restrictions of rights in the name of safety, blind patriotism, and an overwhelming belief that there is only one true religion, and deviants from this should be killed. While George Orwell’s 1984 is often referred to as an insightful perspective on modern society whenever someone puts a video camera on a street lamp, or the government begins referring to negative events with positive doublespeak. Orwell’s world never materialized in full, and likely never will materialize to the degree he created. Instead it is Atwood’s distopia, seemingly outrageous at the time it was written, that became reality. This novel should serve as a cautionary warning about the result of any extremist view taken to its logical conclusion—the Taliban is proof that society cannot dismiss the notions of this book as outrageous and extreme. They have proven in the last decade, a plausible end to the error of letting fundamentalism in any form guide one’s society.

  6. 3 out of 5

    Bookdragon Sean

    I’ve been moved by books in the past, many times, but I’ve never before read a book that has emotionally drained me to such a degree. This is frightening and powerful. And sometimes it only takes a single paragraph to make you realise how much so: “Yes, Ma’am, I said again, forgetting. They used to have dolls, for little girls, that would talk if you pulled a string at the back; I thought I was sounding like that, voice of a monotone, voice of a doll. She probably longed to slap my face. They c I’ve been moved by books in the past, many times, but I’ve never before read a book that has emotionally drained me to such a degree. This is frightening and powerful. And sometimes it only takes a single paragraph to make you realise how much so: “Yes, Ma’am, I said again, forgetting. They used to have dolls, for little girls, that would talk if you pulled a string at the back; I thought I was sounding like that, voice of a monotone, voice of a doll. She probably longed to slap my face. They can hit us, there’s Scriptural precedent. But not with any implement. Only with their hands.” Needless to say, this is an absolutely awful situation. From the very beginning, I knew how much I was going to like this book. Its story isn’t one that it is simply read: it demands to be heard. It beckoned me to see the full force of the situation. The Handmaids, the average woman, have no free will or individualism; they are treated as simple baby producing machines. An oppressive regime is forced upon them, and to deviate from the said standard results in a slow and agonising death. There’s no hope or joy for them, only perpetual subjugation. Indeed, this is where Atwood’s awe inspiringly persuasive powers reside. By portraying such a bleak situation, she is able to fully demonstrate what life could be like if we suddenly followed the misogynistic views of the old testament with fierce intensity. Women would have no power whatsoever. This would be reinforced by a complete cultural destruction and lack of any form of self-expression. They would not be able to read or write; they would not be able to speak their minds. It would even go as far as to condition them so powerfully, that they completely lack the ability of independent thought. And, to make it even worse, the women know no difference. Sure, the narrator of this remembers her past, but she’s not allowed to. She is forced to repress any sense of individual sentiment. “But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.” The narrator has a horrendous ordeal, in an equally as horrendous world. The notion was devised as a response against a drastic decrease in birth-rates. Men in power have taken complete control of women in both body and mind to insure an increase in the declining birth-rates. As I mentioned, their individualism is repressed, but the men also prevent any physical freedom. The women are owned by the state, by the men and by corruption; their bodies are nothing more than a means to provide new life. In this, they are degraded to a state of sub-human existence; they are no longer people. Atwood suggests that they are merely a reproductive organ, one that can be discarded without thought, mercy or conscience. This is reinforced on every level; the language delivers this on a revealing scale. The names are suggestive of the oppression; the protagonist is called “Offred.” She is of-Fred: she belongs to him. The women are assigned names that are not their own; they are dubbed with the disgusting title of “Handmaiden.” By doing so they are left with very little of their former lives. The women are simply objects to be used, controlled and destroyed and the slightest hint of nonconformity to such an absurd system. But, here’s the rub. The best, and most haunting, thing about this novel is its scary plausibility. The culture created is evocative of one that could actually exist. The way the men attempt to justify its existence is nothing short of terrifying. They make it sound perfectly normal. Well, not normal, but an idea that could be justified to a people. Not that it is justifiable, but the argument they present has just enough eerie resemblance to a cold, logical, response to make it seem probable in its misguided vileness. The totalitarian elements provide an image of a people that will do endure anything if they’re provided with a glimpse of liberty. The small degree of liberty the Handmaids think they have doesn’t actually exist: it’s an illusion, a trick, a shadow on the wall. They’re manipulated into believing it and become frenzied in the face of it. It is the ultimate means of control in its nastiness. “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.” This book was horrifying and strangely perceptive. If you’re thinking about reading this, stop thinking, just read it. It’s brilliant. It’s a book I will definitely be reading again because it is just so thought provoking and disturbing. Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Academia

  7. 3 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is a tale of terror as well as a warning. The dystopian future she describes in "Gilead" which appears to be centered in Boston (due to the reference to Mass Ave and the town of Salem) is chillingly misogynistic where women are reduced to strict categories: Martha for housework and cooking, Jezebels (easy to guess, right?), Eyes, Angels (soldiers for the state), infertile Wives and potentially fertile Handmaids. It is beautifully written with lots of flashba Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is a tale of terror as well as a warning. The dystopian future she describes in "Gilead" which appears to be centered in Boston (due to the reference to Mass Ave and the town of Salem) is chillingly misogynistic where women are reduced to strict categories: Martha for housework and cooking, Jezebels (easy to guess, right?), Eyes, Angels (soldiers for the state), infertile Wives and potentially fertile Handmaids. It is beautifully written with lots of flashbacks of "Offred", the protagonist's name, of how things devolved into the horrors of her present. It is disturbing because it exposes the politics of reproduction and male sexuality taken to extremes of violence that are shocking and, yet, probably seemed one possible future during the Reaganite 80s when she wrote the book and now feel like the world of which Michael Pence in particular and perhaps Paul Ryan but most definitely Steve Bannon must dream. Could things so change as quickly as she describes in the book? Let us hope not. #resist It is certainly the most explicitly feminist dystopian book I have ever read. It was thought-provoking cover to cover. All in all, a very well-written feminist text that should serve as a clarion call for defending women's rights to maintain control over their own bodies and lives now and forever. Just found this article about my last point: here Drumpf's sexist, violent tweet against Morning Joe and the escalating attacks against reproductive freedom are moving the American experiment dangerously towards Atwood's Gilead. #resist Apparently, there are also changes at the CIA that bring the spectre of Gilead a little closer. In another note, I just got Mona Eltahawy's Headscarves and Hymens which is also on subject. Any of my review readers want to tell me whether the Hulu show about this book is worth my time or not?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    Consider this not a ground-breaking work of literature. Consider this not a piece of fiction boasting an avant-garde mode of narration. Consider it not a commentary on the concept of subjugation of the weak by the ones holding the reins. Consider it not a thinly veiled feminist diatribe either. Instead, consider The Handmaid's Tale an almost physical experience. Consider Margaret Atwood a fearless deliverer of unpleasant news - a messenger unafraid of dishing out the bone-chilling, cruel, unalter Consider this not a ground-breaking work of literature. Consider this not a piece of fiction boasting an avant-garde mode of narration. Consider it not a commentary on the concept of subjugation of the weak by the ones holding the reins. Consider it not a thinly veiled feminist diatribe either. Instead, consider The Handmaid's Tale an almost physical experience. Consider Margaret Atwood a fearless deliverer of unpleasant news - a messenger unafraid of dishing out the bone-chilling, cruel, unaltered truth and nothing but the truth. Move over Bram Stoker. Move over H.P. Lovecraft. Fade away into oblivion, Edgar Allan Poe. Disappear down the depths of obscurity, Stephen King. Your narratives are not nearly as coldly brutal, your premonitions not nearly as portentous. Because Ms Atwood, presents to us something so truly disturbing in the garb of speculative fiction that it reminds one of Soviet-era accounts of quotidian hardships in Gulag labour camps. Speculative is it? Aren't the Offreds (Of Fred) , Ofglens (Of Glen), Of warrens (Of Warren) of Gilead equivalent to the Mrs So-and-So-s of the present, reduced to the identity of their male partners? Isn't the whittling down of a woman to the net worth of her reproductive organs and her outer appearance an accepted social more? Isn't blaming the rape victim, causing her to bear the burden of unwarranted shame and social stigma a familiar tactic employed by the defense attorney? Hasn't the 21st century witnessed the fate of Savita Halappanavars who are led to their untimely deaths by inhumane laws of nations still unwilling to acknowledge the importance of the life of a mother over her yet unborn child? Doesn't the 21st century have materially prosperous nations governed by absurd, archaic laws which prohibit a woman from driving a car? Doesn't the world still take pleasure in terrorizing activists like Caroline Criado-Perez with threats of rape and murder only because they have the audacity to campaign for female literary icons (Jane Austen) to become the face of Britain's 10-pound note? Do I not live in a country where female foeticide is as normal an occurrence as the rising and setting of the sun? Are we still calling this speculative fiction? Some may wish to labour under the delusion that the women belonging to this much vaunted modern civilization of ours are not experiencing the same nightmare as Offred and are at perfect liberty to do what they desire. But I will not. Because when I look carefully, I notice shackles encircling my feet, my hands, my throat, my womb, my mind. Shackles whose presence I have become so used to since the dawn of time, that I no longer possess the ability to discern between willful submission and conditioned subservience. But thankfully enough, I have Margaret Atwood to jolt me back into consciousness and to will me to believe that I am chained, bound and gagged. That I still need to break free. I thank her for making me shudder with indignation, revulsion and righteous anger. I thank her for causing bile to rise up my throat. And I thank her for forcing me to see that women of the present do live in a dystopia like Offred's United States of America. We just prefer to remain blissfully blind to this fact at times. Disclaimer:- I mean no disrespect to the other writers mentioned in this review all of whom I have read and deeply admire.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    What a perfect time to be scared to death by this novel. It doesn't feel dated or far-fetched at all, thanks to President Trump. Claire Danes is a pretty good match for this narrative. Original review Imagine the near future where power is overtaken by the religious right under the guise of protection from Islamic terrorism. Imagine the future where the roles of the women reduced to those assigned to them in Old Testament - they are no longer allowed to read, work, own property, or handle money. Im What a perfect time to be scared to death by this novel. It doesn't feel dated or far-fetched at all, thanks to President Trump. Claire Danes is a pretty good match for this narrative. Original review Imagine the near future where power is overtaken by the religious right under the guise of protection from Islamic terrorism. Imagine the future where the roles of the women reduced to those assigned to them in Old Testament - they are no longer allowed to read, work, own property, or handle money. Imagine that due to the pollution and man-created viruses, the fertility rates are so low that the few fertile women (the Handmaids) are now a communal property and are moved from house to house to be inseminated by men of power under the watchful eye of their wives. Imagine the future where women can only be the Wives, domestics (the Marthas), sexual toys (the Jezebels), female prison guards (the Aunts), wombs (the Handmaids), or, if they are unsuited for any of these roles, Unwomen who are sent off to the Colonies where they harvest cotton if they are lucky or clean out radioactive waste if they aren't. Well, after you've imagined that, you can imagine very easily how much I was terrified by this book. As a modern woman, I am horrified by the notion that at some point in time I can become nothing more than a servant, a toy, a reproductive organ. The world created by Atwood seems too much of a stretch of imagination at a first glance, but if the current climate, how implausible this feminist dystopia really is? To say I am impressed by this novel is to say nothing, really. This book is one of those that stays in your brain and you keep coming back to it over and over again. Having said that, I have to note, that this is definitely not an easy read. Offred (the protagonist Handmaid) is in many ways a frustrating narrator: she is broken, she is passive, she is desperate and her only goal is to make it through another day. The ending is ambiguous. The narration is complex with constant switching from present to past and back. But it all worked perfectly for me. For me, "The Handmaid's Tale" is a powerful novel that is in my mind next to Saramago's "Blindness," another book that left me sleepless. Reading challenge: #22

  10. 3 out of 5

    Adina

    I. Night I am lying awake in my bed. I keep my eyes closed and beg sleep to come. Fruitlessly! Outside, the rain is whipping the windows without mercy. My husband is sleeping next to me, oblivious to my struggle. I need my thoughts to go away. I need to forget that I just finished the Handmaid's Tale and its effect on me. I knew I should have resumed myself to the self-imposed daily quota of 10%. But no. I had to read the last 30 % in one go and now I can't sleep because of it. It’s like a shot o I. Night I am lying awake in my bed. I keep my eyes closed and beg sleep to come. Fruitlessly! Outside, the rain is whipping the windows without mercy. My husband is sleeping next to me, oblivious to my struggle. I need my thoughts to go away. I need to forget that I just finished the Handmaid's Tale and its effect on me. I knew I should have resumed myself to the self-imposed daily quota of 10%. But no. I had to read the last 30 % in one go and now I can't sleep because of it. It’s like a shot of caffeine to my veins. How can I review such a book? How can I explain how I feel? I don’t even know. I can't say I enjoyed it. I was both dreading and expecting to open the pages. I wanted it to be over, like I want a punishment to be over. It made me choke; I was uncomfortable and in pain the whole 312 pages. However, I was also in awe to the power and poetry of Atwood's writing. The last novel they made me feel this way was Never Let Me Go. I can still smell the heavy the heavy atmosphere. Submission! This is it. Both were about submission to a terrible destiny. I could not understand and accept it then and I cannot do it now. Or can I? What would I do to survive, if submission were the only hope? There is a knot in my throat. What she wrote in this novel, the world she created is absurd isn't it? It cannot happen, not in a million years, right? We are past this, we have evolved enough. We cannot get there. It would be terrible, unthinkable. It is absurd to think that people’s will can be so easily obliterated, that minds can be erased and that fear can rule one’s life into submission. And still... Kim Jung-Un in Korea, Putin in Russia, more recently the election in Turkey. Trump is just as dangerous. Le Pen can become the next president in France. Yes the daughter of the man that said that Holocaust did not exist. The world is a dangerous place and freedom is fragile. We need to open our eyes, be vigilant and never be complacent with what we have so it is not taken from us. I still cannot sleep. The rain becomes even more punishing. My mind races. I think about the past of my country. In the end of the novel, at Historical Notes, there were a few examples of other similar regimes that reacted as Gilead. It said that Romania has anticipated Gilead in the eighties by banning all forms of birth control, and imposing other restrictions. How I wished this was also part of the author’s imagination. Ok, there were no compulsory pregnancy tests and promotion did not depend on fertility but a decree was passed by Ceausescu, our last communist president where all birth control and abortion was banned. The punishment for not complying was severe; women were imprisoned and beaten to confess. During the 20 years when the decree was in place, more than 10,000 women died from illegal, mostly home-made abortions. Another world where men controlled women’s body. Not so long ago. We cannot go back to that, can we? Motherhood. Another hurtful subject. To have your child taken away from you. To be unable to have a child and have your husband conceive with someone else while you watch. A nightmare for any woman (or man). No more love, no more sex for pleasure. No, here I draw the line. I cannot see this happen. And still… Historical Notes The above memoir of a distressed reader that could not sleep because of the Handmaid’s Tale, was found in the notes of a mobile phone. It is hard to identify the person that wrote the document as there were probably many people that lost sleep over this novel in Atwood’s republic. She tends to write some uncomfortable stuff, that author. We cannot confirm the authenticity of the document, still the disturbed tone suggests that the person actually read the Handmaid’s Tale and was deeply impressed by it. And scared. P.S. I found in another review an interesting article wrote by Atwood where she discusses the book. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/bo...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    A true dystopian classic. This is incredibly well written, & I think that is why it's fan base is so enormous & faithful. It made Entertainment Weekly's "Top 25 Best Books of the Last 25 Years." The account reminds me of, and is probably written trying to somehow emulate, "The Diary of Anne Frank." This new vision of the future is one devoid the female mystique, with only one sex becoming triumphant &) dominating the other. This is misogyny to the nth degree. It is a holocaust that mi A true dystopian classic. This is incredibly well written, & I think that is why it's fan base is so enormous & faithful. It made Entertainment Weekly's "Top 25 Best Books of the Last 25 Years." The account reminds me of, and is probably written trying to somehow emulate, "The Diary of Anne Frank." This new vision of the future is one devoid the female mystique, with only one sex becoming triumphant &) dominating the other. This is misogyny to the nth degree. It is a holocaust that mirrors the treatment of women in the Middle East. It is multifaceted & wondrous. But also terrible. I must say that reading the last stretch of novel, I drifted & when the conclusion arrived, it hit me. It's impact waking me full tilt. What?!?!? It ends in a very Coen Brothers fashion! That it is tight, then unravels in plot is efficient... then chaotic. It belongs in the same shelf as "We," obviously, and I did not find anything funny about it, only pathos and ironic melancholy. Again, kinda like 'em Coens.

  12. 3 out of 5

    Victoria

    Not a very well written book. The writing itself is clumsy. It doesn't feel like you're reading a story; it feels like you're reading a piece of writing. Good writers put their words together for a calculated effect, but Atwood's words aren't just calculated-- they're contrived. In a good piece of writing, you shouldn't see the writer at all. You shouldn't see the structure of their writing. All you should see is the story. If you're seeing the deliberate cadence of a phrase, or the use of repet Not a very well written book. The writing itself is clumsy. It doesn't feel like you're reading a story; it feels like you're reading a piece of writing. Good writers put their words together for a calculated effect, but Atwood's words aren't just calculated-- they're contrived. In a good piece of writing, you shouldn't see the writer at all. You shouldn't see the structure of their writing. All you should see is the story. If you're seeing the deliberate cadence of a phrase, or the use of repetition instead of its effect, then these style choices weren't done subtly enough. If you can see the writer's style through their words, then they're just not doing it right. I think Atwood very much falls into this trap. Her style lacks the subtlety required to tell a story like this. The other problem is that it's impossible to forget that this was written in the mid-1980s. The appeal of dystopian fiction, I thought, was that it served as a timeless warning against the pitfalls of humanity. Of course, I'm not a big fan of dystopian writing, so I can only draw on 1984 again as a reference, but: the great thing about 1984 is that it doesn't read like it was written in 1948. It doesn't read as an unambiguous warning against communism, which would make it static and irrelevant today, where the red threat has passed. It is as yet a timeless story, a warning against the state, which did not discredit itself in 1989, but which instead took on a new meaning. Today, one doesn't read Orwell as a warning against communism in particular, but against oppression in general. What's great about 1984 is that it is ambiguous enough to remain dynamic and relevant through reinterpretation, but real enough that it resonates across the years to mean something still. The Handmaid's Tale doesn't carry that kind of resonance. It's just not, to me, that powerful a story, and then Atwood drops in details, devices, that ground it more and more solidly into the mid-80s. That the novel is set contemporary to her writing it fixes the action in time. She makes reference to real movies, real magazines, real time frames, real places, real events. But to understand them, you need to have an intimate understanding of what was going on in the world in 1985. You need to understand what North American culture was like. You need to understand how American history was being interpreted. But you also need to understand that Iran was a new player, a new threat on the world stage, and you need to understand how the world reacted to it. But these background concepts are not universal, nor are they timeless. Already people are forgetting about the 1980s brand of feminism, and already people are forgetting about the Iranian revolution. And North American culture is not a homogeneous as it once was: today the religious right could not stage a coup as is described in the novel, because there are too many diverse groups and networks today who would oppose it. Arguably the religious right has seized power, but not like that. Atwood's vision of an extremist revolution is dated, which makes me question the validity of the other warnings she puts forth. That's not to say that I think it's a bad book. Atwood does advance some chilling theories about the future of mankind, and even as I sat there shaking my head and going, "that could never happen," the possibilities are deeply disturbing. The novel served as a warning in its own time, and it is interesting to read it with that in mind. And if you like dystopian fiction, then it is definitely worth a read. I just have a problem in reconciling the novel's message with today's reality, where Atwood's fears actually seem to be the least of our worries.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Candace

    After reading 'The Handmaid's Tale', I can see why this dystopian classic has made such an impression on so many. This is a book that definitely hangs with you, haunting your thoughts, long after you finish the book. It is thought-provoking and terrifying. The story centers on the heroine, Offred, who is a "handmaiden" in this futuristic world created by Ms. Atwood. As a handmaiden, Offred's sole purpose is to produce a baby for the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. Once she has served her purp After reading 'The Handmaid's Tale', I can see why this dystopian classic has made such an impression on so many. This is a book that definitely hangs with you, haunting your thoughts, long after you finish the book. It is thought-provoking and terrifying. The story centers on the heroine, Offred, who is a "handmaiden" in this futuristic world created by Ms. Atwood. As a handmaiden, Offred's sole purpose is to produce a baby for the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. Once she has served her purpose, she will be reassigned to another high-ranking man for the same purpose. This pattern will repeat over and over, until she is no longer able to bear children. What happens then, nobody really wants to talk about. Worse yet, if she fails to produce a child then she will face a fate reserved for the lowliest of women. This is the world that Offred and others are left with after a brutal civil war stamped out the rights that citizens like Offred had taken for granted. The overthrow of the democratic government was gradual...until it wasn't. The changes that took place were very insidious. One moment, people like Offred were consumed with trivial problems, like where they were going to go out for dinner that night. The next thing they knew, a civil war was raging. Soon, their every movement was monitored closely. Of course, this was for their own "protection" and "safety". Then, women weren't allowed to hold jobs or manage their own money. (After all, the poor little dears shouldn't have to bear that burden. A man should handle those sorts of things.) Next, anyone that dared to oppose the new regime was eliminated. Before long, citizens like Offred cannot even recognize their new reality. They are stuck under the rule of an incredibly oppressive, misogynistic regime. Worst of all, their complacency paved the way for this gradual overthrow. Little by little, they handed over their rights with little resistance. They refused to see the writing on the wall and wanted to believe the lies that they were spoon-fed. Once they wised up, it was too late. Now, they are a people broken. Women, especially, face a grim fate. This book is remarkable! Although it can be rather slow-moving at times, the message was powerful. This story serves as a cautionary tale and a necessary reminder. Civil rights are hard won and easily lost. It is easy to draw comparisons to many of this books' events and the events of the past and present. Ms. Atwood highlights many important issues and offers a great deal of social commentary. There were so many important topics that she touched upon that I can't even begin to list them. This book is considered to be a classic for a reason. It is a book that needs to be read and taken in by readers. While it isn't necessarily the most entertaining read, it is certainly one of the most enlightening and thought-provoking. I highly recommend that everyone read this book, at least once.

  14. 3 out of 5

    Megan Johnson

    I don't even know where to start with this book?? I was not able to connect with the Characters in the book at all. It was a task to completely finish this book at all. I know I am in the minority, but I don't know what all the hype was with this book. I think that Atwood was long winded in her writing style and did not help with the connections with the Characters. I honestly don't have much more to say about this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matthias

    Don't let the bastards grind you down. There's a lot of talk about women's rights these days. There were times where I thought: enough already. You girls got it good. I looked around me and saw women with strong voices and a million choices. If they wished to go for a career, they could go for it. If they didn't, no biggie. Their liberty seemed greater than men's in a lot of respects. The power they wield over men is magnificent and often described as the greatest humanity is capable of: a woma Don't let the bastards grind you down. There's a lot of talk about women's rights these days. There were times where I thought: enough already. You girls got it good. I looked around me and saw women with strong voices and a million choices. If they wished to go for a career, they could go for it. If they didn't, no biggie. Their liberty seemed greater than men's in a lot of respects. The power they wield over men is magnificent and often described as the greatest humanity is capable of: a woman's love. They can choose to give it or withhold it. Men's political and physical powers look puny and artificial in contrast, as their strings are constantly pulled by forces they can't resist. Somewhere deep inside me I had a hard time believing things could really be so bad for women, with their majority in numbers and all this strenght at their disposal. But then you turn on the news or you open a history book. You look outside your own country. You look at a presidential candidate talking about women as animals, as goods to be acquired, as territories to be conquered. You see people making excuses for it, making light of it, you see in their eyes they assume that it's normal. You see laws that tell women what to do with their own bodies, in the name of religion or the greater good. You hear of households where tiny kings use their physical power to terrorise their tiny kingdoms. And then you see all the machinations that have gone into trying to rob women of their mystical, almost holy, powers in greater kingdoms, machinations that often seem on the verge of systematising in the blink of an eye. So, having accepted that the Woman's struggle is real, I was reading The Handmaid's Tale that paints a picture of how things would look like if circumstance and evil succeeded in stripping women of all the agency they have. When they have succesfully been ground down by the bastards. Bastards aren't Men, per se. Or all men. Or only men. This isn't so much a story about women versus men. It's a story of the artificial power against the real one, a story where the former won. It's a bleak picture. Atwood uses the very claustrophobic perspective of Offred to great effect. Offred is the eponymous handmaid who find herself in a dystopia where her only societal value is also a curse: her fertility. Her world consists of her room, a stroll down the stairs, a garden, a walk to the butcher and her one and only societal mission: to get pregnant. She has to wear a cape that allows her to only look directly in front of her. She's isolated and stripped of her identity. Even her memories are slowly disappearing and losing relevance in a surrounding that offers nothing to link them to. Through this narrative Margaret Atwood succeeds in donning that same vision-confining cape on her readers' heads, immersing them in that same claustrophobic atmosphere. This books does very well what it set out to do and that also explains why I didn't thoroughly enjoy it. I wanted more background. I wanted more explanations. I wanted more adventure. I wanted more action by the protagonist. I wanted her spirit, still apparent in the secretly hoarding of butter and the plotting of small thefts, to break free and wreak havoc among the bastards. Make them lose without losing herself. I wanted more direction. I wanted the flashes of hope to last. In short: the author succeeded in making me want what the protagonist wanted. She showed me what it is we should all strive to avoid actively. An important book, and a good one to boot.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Terrifying! But SO good! Update in Year One ... No .... It's Already Year Two ... Terrible Two ... Of Dystopia: As long as you are allowed and capable to read, please do read this novel! In an era when politicians in the Western world are not ashamed to refer to pregnant women as "hosts", deprived of their rights as individuals, we must start speaking up against the steady realisation of dystopian fiction. Let these authors, such as Orwell, Atwood, or Ishiguro, stay great writers of fiction! Don Terrifying! But SO good! Update in Year One ... No .... It's Already Year Two ... Terrible Two ... Of Dystopia: As long as you are allowed and capable to read, please do read this novel! In an era when politicians in the Western world are not ashamed to refer to pregnant women as "hosts", deprived of their rights as individuals, we must start speaking up against the steady realisation of dystopian fiction. Let these authors, such as Orwell, Atwood, or Ishiguro, stay great writers of fiction! Don't make them involuntary prophets! If we don't oppose the hypocrisy and illogical idiocy of lawmaking against women's choice regarding unwanted pregnancy, claiming that it is based on moral and religious grounds, we will have a society ruled by 17th century Puritans with an evil modern twist. "Thou shalt not kill!" I agree. Let's start implementing that commandment where people are actually dying. I am Pro Life: Let's work to put an end to the distribution and availability of weapons, the death penalty, and wars. Let's speak up for better health care to protect the lives of millions of human beings. Let's support refugees from other parts of the world that are threatened by war or famines or disease. Let's focus on the big issues that threaten life on earth! Let's care for our environment. Pro Life! Update a couple of months into Year One Of Dystopia: I just listened to an interview with a conservative Catholic politician in the UK who believes so much in the teachings of the Catholic Church that he thinks it is morally indefensible for a woman raped by a family member to have an abortion. Where is the novelist who can write a science fiction story about him waking up in hell after death and realising that Catholicism was not the absolute truth after all, but Hinduism. He receives the message that his next incarnation on Earth will be a young Catholic girl raped by a priest. Oh karma! In Year Two of Dystopia we still quote the bible both to justify forbidding abortion AND to cause massive trauma to babies born on the wrong side of a border. Pro Life, anyone? Pro children?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a brilliant, endearing, scary as hell book. Told with simplistic prose and stark attention to detail, Atwood describes life in the not too distant future where the United States has been transformed through military coup into a totalitarian theocracy. This dystopian horror story is made all the more real by the bridge Atwood has created between the world we know now and the world that could be – the story’s protagonist remembers the time before the chang The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a brilliant, endearing, scary as hell book. Told with simplistic prose and stark attention to detail, Atwood describes life in the not too distant future where the United States has been transformed through military coup into a totalitarian theocracy. This dystopian horror story is made all the more real by the bridge Atwood has created between the world we know now and the world that could be – the story’s protagonist remembers the time before the change. This is, to my knowledge, a unique element in the dystopian genre, whereas in many others the setting is some time in the far future and there seems little hope for change or revolution. More than that, the heroine, Offred (not her real name but the proprietary title she is given) is an approachable, likable character that brings the reader dangerously close to the action. Drawing an obvious correlation between far right conservative Christian movements and Muslim Sharia law authoritarian theocratic ideologies, Atwood has created a disturbing vision. As the reader experiences the story from the perspective of a mother, this story has the added complexity of nurturing relationships turned horribly askew. This is not as terrible as Elie Wiesel’s Night, still in my mind the scariest nightmare I’ve ever even thought about reading, but Atwood’s talent has summoned a specter almost as dark.

  18. 3 out of 5

    Matthew

    An interesting book to read right now for a couple of reasons. One, I just finished 1984 and it was very much a world like the one in 1984. Two, the storyline closely reflects the fears of the current political climate in America. It is hard to say that a story like this is "great" as that has a positive connotation. I was very enthralling, but terrifying at the same time. As a man, I don't think this story has as deep of an impact on me as it would if I was a woman. If you like dystopian, you mu An interesting book to read right now for a couple of reasons. One, I just finished 1984 and it was very much a world like the one in 1984. Two, the storyline closely reflects the fears of the current political climate in America. It is hard to say that a story like this is "great" as that has a positive connotation. I was very enthralling, but terrifying at the same time. As a man, I don't think this story has as deep of an impact on me as it would if I was a woman. If you like dystopian, you must check this book out. If you are fired up by the recent election, you may want to hold off a bit . . . it will only make it worse.

  19. 3 out of 5

    Navessa

    I would love to write a lengthy review for this book. But I can't. Because I'm so emotionally drained after reading it that it's a miracle I'm not still hiding underneath a pile of blankets, sobbing. This is by no means an easy read, but I think it's a book that everyone needs to read. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

  20. 4 out of 5

    Simona Bartolotta

    EDIT 02/06/2016: Lowering the rating to two. I finished it more than a week ago and now I realized I haven't thought of it once. It really left me nothing. "Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some." I used to think of my reading taste as predictable. Well, at least a very specific part of my reading taste: namely, there are very few things in the world that I love more than I love dyostopias in the style of 1984 and, above any other, Brave New World (se EDIT 02/06/2016: Lowering the rating to two. I finished it more than a week ago and now I realized I haven't thought of it once. It really left me nothing. "Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some." I used to think of my reading taste as predictable. Well, at least a very specific part of my reading taste: namely, there are very few things in the world that I love more than I love dyostopias in the style of 1984 and, above any other, Brave New World (seriously, you need to read that book). This is why I was convinced I was bound to like The Handmaid's Tale; and yet, right before I started it, I was caught by a hunch that my certainties were not certain at all. I don't know if it's self-conditioning or whatever, but my gut feelings lately are unerring. •Have you ever heard of Coleridge and the suspension of disbelief? "...a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith." In the majority of cases, we don't even realize we're granting the author and the story our suspension of disbelief. We just believe, because we are prepared to, because we know that if we don't, then reading is no use, especially if what we are dealing with is a fantasy or sci-fi book. Lo and behold, this book made me struggle to grant it my suspension of disbelief. I still have not decided if it was due to the writing, or the story in itself, or something else yet, but that is what happened, and it totally ruined it for me. •In my defense, the lack of explanations, or better, the fact that they are given only when we are well into the story, practically towards the end, did not help. Most of the time, I just felt like I was groping around in the dark, and honestly, it was annoying, annoying, annoying. Besides, we are supposed to believe that this full-scale change that swept across the society happened in approximately eight or ten years at most, (we don't know the chronological details) and I found I just couldn't believe it. It's too radical a transformation, and according to the book the mentality it brought about is already well-implanted into the citizens -not everyone, naturally, but generally it is. It's par for the course for a dictatorship to establish itself in a matter of years, but it requires nonetheless the long-standing presence of a certain set of ideas that justifies and forms the basis of the building of an ideology. What we see in The Handmaid's Tale is the cause, the ultimate effect, and none of the passages in between. I need the in-between. I need the whole picture. •This lack of "background", if you can call it so, made it impossible for me to lose myself int he story. The narrative voice, the protagonist's, is ineffective, bland, not nearly as trenchant as such a strong story requires. She should be able to heighten our disgust for the situation out of sympathy towards her and her circumstances, but to me, and you are allowed to call me heartless, nothing of this happened. I was horrified by what she and the whole female population have to suffer, but it was only an objective aversion due to an objective state of affairs, and not even partly to the empathy I should have felt for the character. I read stories to connect with the people in them; otherwise, I would read nonfiction. •The plot is uneventful, almost literally. Usually this is not something I consider a priori as a flaw, but in this case it felt like one. ➽ On balance, I did not enjoy it. I acknowledge its value, but it was quite an effort for me to get through it. Now that I think of it, probably it's kind of a 2.5 instead of a full 3.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    The Handmaid's Tale portrays a terrifying but very real and possible dystopia. At first, it's difficult to tell what exactly is going on in the handmaid's world, although her spare narration is filled with a deep sense of fear and danger. It's challenging but exciting to try to make sense of all the frightening details that she describes, and that's one of the things that made this such a compelling read for me--I was desperate to figure out what was happening as well as how and why things had g The Handmaid's Tale portrays a terrifying but very real and possible dystopia. At first, it's difficult to tell what exactly is going on in the handmaid's world, although her spare narration is filled with a deep sense of fear and danger. It's challenging but exciting to try to make sense of all the frightening details that she describes, and that's one of the things that made this such a compelling read for me--I was desperate to figure out what was happening as well as how and why things had gone so wrong. The story progresses beautifully, as the details of the present unravel at the same time and with the same urgency as the events of the past, tracing a frighteningly believable path from our world to hers. One thing that I really liked about the development of the story: as the circumstances of the handmaid's life and surroundings become clearer and more oppressive, she actually seems to gain some small measure of hope. There's a constantly escalating contrast between the powers threatening her and the growing strength of her voice. For me, I guess the most beautiful and thrilling theme of this novel was its focus on the fragility and importance of our small little moments of happiness. So many times the main character reflects on images from her past and thinks, "And we didn't even know we were happy then." Atwood has done a masterful job of portraying how quickly and uncontrollably the things by which we define our daily selves can be destroyed and rewritten, and how our fear and desire to keep on living makes us silent in the face of power. I love books that stay with me during the time when I'm away from them, and this is definitely one those books. Over the past few days, I've frequently found myself sitting on the metro, looking out the window and thinking about different passages and themes from the novel, marveling at how the story seems both far away and very familiar. I'd be interested to chat with anyone else about their take on the book. I'd like to know if other people think it's just terrifying all the way through or whether it ever reaches a point at which it's somewhat hopeful. Looking back on it, I can't really tell. At times, the terror in this novel seems so great that even the smallest glimpses of hope seem bigger than life. 4.5/5

  22. 3 out of 5

    María

    Tan duro que no podía leer más de diez páginas diarias. Era incapaz. P.D Si no hubiese machitos escocíos con este libro, entonces significaría que Margaret no lo hizo bien.

  23. 3 out of 5

    jessica

    i am a massive scaredy cat. and as i rule, i avoid all things horrifying, frightening, spooky, and anything else that will give me nightmares. so this book came as an absolute shock. i am terrified. right down to my bones. how can i be so fascinated by this kind of society, but also repulsed by it at the same time? why do i feel confident that something like this could never happen, but also have a voice in the back of my mind whispering, ‘are you really so sure?’ what makes me want to never thin i am a massive scaredy cat. and as i rule, i avoid all things horrifying, frightening, spooky, and anything else that will give me nightmares. so this book came as an absolute shock. i am terrified. right down to my bones. how can i be so fascinated by this kind of society, but also repulsed by it at the same time? why do i feel confident that something like this could never happen, but also have a voice in the back of my mind whispering, ‘are you really so sure?’ what makes me want to never think about this book again, but also know that its the kind of story that will forever haunt me? i. am. worried. but note to self: nolite te bastardes carborundorum. ↠ 4.5 stars

  24. 5 out of 5

    °°°·.°·..·°¯°·._.· ʜᴇʟᴇɴ Ροζουλί Εωσφόρος ·._.·°¯°·.·° .·°°° ★·.·´¯`·.·★ Ⓥⓔⓡⓝⓤⓢ Ⓟⓞⓡⓣⓘⓣⓞⓡ Ⓐⓡⓒⓐⓝⓤⓢ Ταμετούρο Αμ

    Υπέροχο και σκληρό βιβλίο,αμιγώς προειδοποιητικό για τον κίνδυνο που διατρέχει κάθε κοινωνία η οποια βρίσκεται σε πλήρη ηθική,ανθρωπιστική και οικονομική κρίση. Επομένως,πρέπει να διαβαστεί απο όλους τις Έλληνες!! Επίκαιρο και ταιριαστό στην νέα τάξη πραγμάτων που μας υποβάλουν αργά και βασανιστικά. Η αλήθεια ειναι πως το βιβλίο ειναι μια μαύρη κόλαση ένας τρόπος να αντιληφθείς άμεσα τα σάπια και τερατώδη γνωρίσματα του πολιτισμού μας. Του σύγχρονου πολιτισμού. Ειναι βιβλίο φαντασίας που βρίσκετα Υπέροχο και σκληρό βιβλίο,αμιγώς προειδοποιητικό για τον κίνδυνο που διατρέχει κάθε κοινωνία η οποια βρίσκεται σε πλήρη ηθική,ανθρωπιστική και οικονομική κρίση. Επομένως,πρέπει να διαβαστεί απο όλους τις Έλληνες!! Επίκαιρο και ταιριαστό στην νέα τάξη πραγμάτων που μας υποβάλουν αργά και βασανιστικά. Η αλήθεια ειναι πως το βιβλίο ειναι μια μαύρη κόλαση ένας τρόπος να αντιληφθείς άμεσα τα σάπια και τερατώδη γνωρίσματα του πολιτισμού μας. Του σύγχρονου πολιτισμού. Ειναι βιβλίο φαντασίας που βρίσκεται πολύ κοντά στον ρεαλισμό. Δεν θα το χαρακτήριζα προφητικό αλλα το καμπανάκι κινδύνου χτυπάει επισταμένως στο μυαλό μου και το σκηνικό για το οποίο με προειδοποιεί δεν περιγράφεται με λέξεις,ειναι τρομακτικό. Οι πρώτες σελίδες ξεκινούν αργά και κάπως δυσνόητα να σε προσκαλούν στον κόσμο της Πορφυρής δούλης. Ένα τάγμα γυναικών αποκαλούνται πορφυρές δούλες οι οποίες κινούνται σαν μαριονέτες απο ένα θεοκρατικό δικτατορικό καθεστώς και μόνο σκοπό έχουν την τεκνοποίηση. Ολα αυτά συμβαίνουν στην "δημοκρατία"του Γιλεάδ,η οποια ειναι αποτέλεσμα βαθιάς κακοήθειας,απανθρωπιάς και σήψης του δυτικού πολιτισμού μας με έντονα προβλήματα διαφθοράς ηθικής και κοινωνικής, με απόλυτη καταστροφή των φυσικών πόρων και πολλών άλλων άλυτων προβλημάτων που έχουν ως αποτέλεσμα κυρίως τη στείρωση του πληθυσμού.Γι αυτό το λόγο οι "οικογένειες" του καθεστώτος χρησιμοποιούν τις γυναίκες που ειναι γόνιμες ως αναπαραγωγικες μηχανές, τις υπόλοιπες τις πετάνε σε σκουπιδότοπους να αργοπεθαίνουν. Οι άντρες της υπόθεσης πιο τυχεροί -ειρωνεία-αποτελούνται απο βαθμίδες στρατολογημενων τρομοκρατών...!!! Το Γιλεάδ θα έλεγα με σιγουριά ειναι η γη της επαγγελίας για κάθε φανατικό θρησκόληπτο φασίστα. Η ιστορια μας ειναι σαν ένα ημερολόγιο μιας ανώνυμης Πορφύρης δούλης -οι πορφυρές δούλες δεν έχουν ονόματα- και μέσα απο την ιστορια της στο παρελθόν και στο παρόν μαθαίνουμε με ανατριχιαστικές λεπτομέρειες τους λόγους και τα γεγονότα που οδήγησαν στη δημιουργία του κόσμου του Γιλεάδ. Θλίψη και εφιαλτικές εικόνες αποδόμησης των ισχυρών και δυνατών ανθρωπων που καταλήγουν θύματα του κόσμου που δημιούργησαν. Καλή ανάγνωση!!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Sagan

    If 1984 is the father, The Handmaid’s Tale is the mother. They are both in the same category and yet they are different. The Handmaid’s Tale is more... feminine. It revolves around Offred’s drama, unlike 1984, which revolves more around the ideology (more like a battle between Winston’s ideas and O’Brien’s ideas). * I’ve read it with the shittiest combination of rage, sadness, fear and paranoia, which stuck with me throughout the entire book. I don’t easily get this emotional. But let me tell you If 1984 is the father, The Handmaid’s Tale is the mother. They are both in the same category and yet they are different. The Handmaid’s Tale is more... feminine. It revolves around Offred’s drama, unlike 1984, which revolves more around the ideology (more like a battle between Winston’s ideas and O’Brien’s ideas). * I’ve read it with the shittiest combination of rage, sadness, fear and paranoia, which stuck with me throughout the entire book. I don’t easily get this emotional. But let me tell you – I honestly felt like everything happening there is inevitable. Before Chapter 28 I tried to justify the way this society worked. You have some sort of nuclear war that brought the human race on the verge of extinction (or so you are told). And I asked myself – if I had the power, what would I do in this situation? It made me think of Inferno by Dan Brown – would you be willing to destroy half of humanity in order to save the human species from extinction? But then I reached Chapter 28 (which, in my opinion, is the best chapter). I saw how easily they’ve got to this, how easily they accepted it. People in power will always abuse it and the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. * At first it was a bit hard to wrap my head around the style of this book (it felt a bit boring), but after a few chapters I got drawn into in. * The ending surprised me. * The second ending surprised me even more. I was so caught up in the story that I asked myself “dude, did this really happen?!” And then I realised I’m silly haha. The way that fiction blended with reality was insane. * Conclusion: a wonderful horror book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Luffy

    Offred is a frightening character. The future where she lives is dystopian, but the word doesn't do justice to this book's plot. Among all the dystopian fictions I've read...e.g Matched by Ally Condie, Delirium by Lauren Olivier, or going back even more, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, none is as scary as Offred's world. The story elements lean towards women, because the main character is a woman. But it's so much more than that. It affects pro-choice people. It affects the romantics who draw ins Offred is a frightening character. The future where she lives is dystopian, but the word doesn't do justice to this book's plot. Among all the dystopian fictions I've read...e.g Matched by Ally Condie, Delirium by Lauren Olivier, or going back even more, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, none is as scary as Offred's world. The story elements lean towards women, because the main character is a woman. But it's so much more than that. It affects pro-choice people. It affects the romantics who draw inspiration from the roots of the Renaissance. The book is so overwhelming that the mind boggles and cannot cope. Whoever you are, read this book, if you haven't done so. This is literature at its finest and most visceral. The current events of our reality, the political mire, all are very much involved with the themes in this book. Democracy and postmodernism are truths that could suddenly become irrelevant. Don't let it be so. Reading The Handmaid's Tale can be an education.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    My preparedness for the regime change taking place in the United States--with elements of the Electoral College, the Kremlin and the FBI helping to install a failed business promoter who the majority of American voters did not support in the election--continues with The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Rereading this 1985 novel was a metric for me. My first attempt, shortly after joining Goodreads, led to me abandoning the book, which ebbs and flows on mood and language and prompts the reader My preparedness for the regime change taking place in the United States--with elements of the Electoral College, the Kremlin and the FBI helping to install a failed business promoter who the majority of American voters did not support in the election--continues with The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Rereading this 1985 novel was a metric for me. My first attempt, shortly after joining Goodreads, led to me abandoning the book, which ebbs and flows on mood and language and prompts the reader to fill in details of this dystopian universe with their worst fears. Three years later, I was of open mind to what Atwood was doing and was deeply affected by it. The story is the account of a woman who the reader comes to know as Offred (Of-Fred). Life as she knew it in America is over. Offred recounts fragments of her internment and reeducation at the Red Center, where women are molded into subservient vessels of a Puritan theocracy by their matron instructors, the Aunts, and kept from escape to Canada or open revolt by the armed wing of the state, the males-only Angels. The narrator then leaps forward to her post as a handmaid, a surrogate mother assigned to a pair of commissioning parents, a male known as The Commander (Fred) and his barren Wife, who the narrator recognizes from her past as a televangelist and dubs Serena Joy. In this nightmare future, the President and Congress have been gunned down (and Islamic fanatics blamed), the Constitution suspended and civil rights advances wound back, way back, in a backlash by disenfranchised men. Liberated women were targeted first, denied banking and removed from the labor force. When out of wedlock children are taken by the state, Offred made a run for the Canadian border with her boyfriend Luke and their five-year-old daughter, neither of which she has seen or been allowed to inquire about since. Fertility rates are low, which is where handmaids like our narrator come in, rotated among the Commanders, the government officials. In front of us, to the right, is the store where we order dresses. Some people call them habits, a good word for them. Habits are hard to break. The store has a huge wooden sign outside it, in the shape of a golden lily; Lilies of the Field, it's called. You can see the place, under the lily, where lettering was painted out, when they decided that the names of shops were too much temptation for us. Now places are known by their signs alone. Lilies used to be movie theater, before. Students went there a lot; every spring they had a Humphrey Bogart festival, with Lauren Bacall or Katharine Hepburn, women on their own, making up their minds. They wore blouses with buttons down the front that suggested the possibilities of the word undone. These women could be undone; or not. They seemed to be able to choose. We seemed to be able to choose, then. We were a society dying, said Aunt Lydia, of too much choice. The secret police, known as the Eye, watch all. On shopping excursions, Offred is paired with a handmaid named Ofglen and watched for signs of unorthodox behavior. The narrator recalls her college friend Moira, a homosexual who used her mechanical skills and will to escape the Red Center. Offred is resigned to her fate, which she understands could be worse, exiled to the Colonies as an Unwoman, perhaps. Her Commander bends the rules, spending time alone with her outside the structured mating ceremony. He supplies Offred with skin moisturizer, vintage magazines and in the course of their affair, tells of her predecessor, who hanged herself in the room she now occupies. Serena Joy, seeking to speed along Offred's conception, also bends the state rules. She arranges a liaison for Offred with Nick, her husband's watchful valet. Committed to her role of conceiving a healthy child for her employers, Offred agrees to the arrangement. Her handmaid comrade Ofglen reveals herself to be affiliated with the resistance and presses her to spy on her Commander for them. Offred remains dubious about striking a blow to Gilead. The Commander sneaks her out of the house to show her off at a brothel where government officials are permitted to mix it up like the sinful old days. Offred is reunited with Moira, who seems resigned to her new role as concubine after capture. The Handmaid's Tale is a tightly controlled reading experience. This is the reason I abandoned it on my first try in 2014. Atwood rations details about America's descent into Puritan theocracy like emergency supplies aboard a life raft. Depending on your hunger, this could be considered trick or treat. The novel, which might as well have been titled "Life During Wartime" without threat of legal action by Talking Heads, is like a diary written under Nazi occupation by a woman limited not only by how little she lifts her eyes from the ground to look at, but who claims to not being much of a writer. Atwood tests how long the reader can maintain patience with our narrator: The good weather holds. It's almost like June, when we would get out our sundresses and our sandals and go for an ice cream cone. There are three new bodies on the Wall. One is a priest, still wearing the black cassock. That's been put on him, for the trial, even though they gave up wearing those years ago, when the sect wars first began; cassocks made them too conspicuous. The two others have purple placards hung around their necks: Gender Treachery. Their bodies still wear the Guardian uniforms. Caught together, they must have been, but where? A barracks, a shower? It's hard to say. I was interested in what led to the Puritan theocracy. I wanted to know where the battle lines had been drawn. I wanted to know about the underground railroad and the resistance and how they operated. Most of all, I wanted a heroine like Moira who could fashion a blade out of a toilet lever and plunge it into the lungs of the moral degenerates terrorizing my fellow Americans. Perhaps this is territory that will be explored in the Hulu TV series starring Elisabeth Moss as Offred, Alexis Bledel as Ofglen and Samira Wiley as Moira. And perhaps if Robert McCammon wrote this as a pulp science fiction novel, I'd get to see that book. With Margaret Atwood, language is the feature attraction: There's time to spare. This is one of the things I wasn't prepared for--the amount of unfilled time, the long parentheses of nothing. Time as white sound. If only I could embroider. Weave, knit, something to do with my hands. I want a cigarette. I remember walking in art galleries, through the nineteenth century: the obsession they had then with harems. Dozens of paintings of harems, fat women lolling on divans, turbans on their heads or velvet caps, being fanned with peacock tails, a eunuch in the background standing guard. Studies of sedentary flesh, painted by men who'd never been there. These pictures were supposed to be erotic, and I thought they were, at the time; but I see now what they were really about. They were paintings about suspended animation; about waiting, about objects not in use. They were paintings about boredom. Reading this novel was like being thrown in a life raft: harrowing, thirsty, terrifying, drifting between past and present and by the afterword labeled "Historical Notes on The Handmaid's Tale," tiredly relieved. Offred is a passive character who doesn't engage in enough intrigue, but the wilderness Atwood lost me in actually made me appreciate her boldness to deviate from the marked trails. Her novel was brought to screen in 1988 by an American-German production adapted by Harold Pinter and directed by Volker Schlöndorff . It starred Natasha Richardson as Offred, Elizabeth McGovern as Moira, Faye Dunaway as Serena Joy, Aidan Quinn as Nick and Robert Duvall as Commander.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kai

    “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.” This was my first adult dystopian novel and also the most realistic one I've read. Scary realistic even. I doubt that the future is ever going to look like this, but Margaret Atwood painted a multi-layered and thought-provoking picture that is going to stay with me for quite a while. I've never read a Margaret Atwood book before, but I have been eyeing her works for a while now. I just didn't know where to start. The re “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.” This was my first adult dystopian novel and also the most realistic one I've read. Scary realistic even. I doubt that the future is ever going to look like this, but Margaret Atwood painted a multi-layered and thought-provoking picture that is going to stay with me for quite a while. I've never read a Margaret Atwood book before, but I have been eyeing her works for a while now. I just didn't know where to start. The reasons I finally picked this up are firstly Emma Watson, who picked this book for the Our Shared Shelf book club and secondly, the TV show that just aired a few weeks ago that I am anxious to see. I've never read a book like this before. The writing is impeccable, detailed and ultimately beautiful. The way Atwood shaped this world with her words went under my skin, and it was a pleasure to read this. The simplicity of the Handmaid's tale is captivating, especially because it draws you in so easily. Other than that it is a deeply feminist book, eye-opening and shocking. I recommed this to everyone and I can't wait to read more of Atwood's books. Find more of my books on Instagram

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    In the near future, the rights of women have been stripped away and the fertile ones become Handmaids and are assigned to upper class men. Offred remembers the time before and knows there must be a way out of the hell men have created... Once upon a time, I dated a woman whose favorite writer was Margaret Atwood and she passed along this book for me to read. Frankly, I was pretty impressed with the dystopian tale but found it a little far-fetched at the time. Now, in the later part of 2017, it fe In the near future, the rights of women have been stripped away and the fertile ones become Handmaids and are assigned to upper class men. Offred remembers the time before and knows there must be a way out of the hell men have created... Once upon a time, I dated a woman whose favorite writer was Margaret Atwood and she passed along this book for me to read. Frankly, I was pretty impressed with the dystopian tale but found it a little far-fetched at the time. Now, in the later part of 2017, it feels a lot more plausible so I decided it was time for a reread. Margaret Atwood paints a grim view of a future when women's rights are stripped away until they're reduced to breeding stock. Reading is forbidden! Reading! At the time I first read it, it seemed like a paranoid fantasy. Now, in an era where people's rights are being steadily eroded and the gap between the rich and the poor is a fathomless chasm, it's all too easy to imagine. Anyway, the paranoid feel is one of my favorite parts. Anyone could be a rat! Atwood knows her way around a sentence. The writing is rich and she weaves quite a narrative around the life and times of a Handmaid. While she alleges she doesn't write science fiction, yes, Margaret, this is science fiction, at least on some level. Just because it's also literary and something of a cautionary tale doesn't give it a free pass. While I like the writing quite a bit, I thought it was a little wordy for what it was. The Handmaid's tale is a powerful book and there's a reason it's won so many awards and wound up on so many people's top lists. Through the magic of aging 10-12 years, I forgot most of it so it was like a whole new book. I'm glad I reread it. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  30. 3 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    “Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse for some.” What a powerful and frightening dystopia! The Handmaid’s Tale has been on my radar for a long time, having recently watched the television series adaption I got around to reading it, and it was just as haunting as I expected! A world where women cannot own money, or property, where they are used purely for their abilities to bear children. Noting comparisons with this world and the one we live in now was very conc “Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse for some.” What a powerful and frightening dystopia! The Handmaid’s Tale has been on my radar for a long time, having recently watched the television series adaption I got around to reading it, and it was just as haunting as I expected! A world where women cannot own money, or property, where they are used purely for their abilities to bear children. Noting comparisons with this world and the one we live in now was very concerning. The religious overtones were done well - realising how the leaders would pick and choose scriptures, altering them and in places just making up their own entirely to push their agendas. “Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.” Offred is a handmaiden to a commander and his wife. Once a month she is required to sleep with the commander, an event known as the ‘Ceremony’ in an attempt to get pregnant, as in this world birth rates have dropped, with very low chances of health to the babies that do survive pregnancy. I am glad I watched the series, as the disjointed narrative and lack of clarification would have meant I couldn’t follow or understand what was happening and why. Also there are a lot of parts left open, which for me added to the fear factor. A horrifyingly appropriate read, and one that will continue to raise questions and remain relevant for a long time. “I’m sorry there is so much pain in this story. I’m sorry it’s in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire or pulled apart by force. But there is nothing I can do to change it.”

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