The Handmaid's Tale

The fact that it has taken me this long to read not just this book but any Margaret Atwood has been a real source of shame in my reading career, so turning the last page was quite exciting. Though admittedly, on turning the last page, I had a frenzied “WHAT” and refused to believe it was finished, genuinely checking the glue to make sure nobody stole the end pages as a dastardly prank.

Alas, it was the ending – though fortunately for me, I could launch straight into The Testaments. I don’t know how some of you waited so long. That said, there was something outright iconic about the questions left unanswered – it said, hauntingly, that the answers weren’t the point, the questions were.

The story is the first person narration of Offred – a Handmaid in the patriarchal dystopia of Gilead. A government coup results in a world in which the female reproductive system is a national resource and yet those same women have no rights (not even to the child they give birth to). They are not permitted to read or write, talk unless spoken to, disagree, or fight. They can accept or die.

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The harrowing fact of the matter is that Margaret Atwood has said on multiple occasions that there is nothing – nothing – in The Handmaid’s Tale that she made up. She has pulled every atrocity and act of terrorism against the human soul from some time or religious attitude in history.

Though sometimes hard to follow – as is often the case with science/speculative fiction – this book is worth every bit of hype I have spent years hearing about. My review of The Testaments will be up next Friday. Praise be.

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