"Now and again we vary the route; there's nothing against it, as long as we stay within the barriers. A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze."
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of Offred (“Of Fred”) a handmaid living in a society based on Genesis 30:1-3; because people struggle to conceive and young women are assigned to (important) men in a bid to increase the population. Women are essentially a “national resource".
I have to admit, I was not looking forward to reading this book. This was a book I was intending to leave until the end mainly because reading about graphic violence towards women leaves me feeling more than green. However, the PTB at the Classics Club picked this number on the #ccspin. This book wasn’t what I expected. This book is for fans of The Road, both are books based on real possibilities that are a psychological horror/thriller.
The first thing that grabbed me was the quality of the writing. Atwood is frequently described as “astute” and rightly so. Each sentence and paragraph flows beautifully. There is a unique perceptive where Atwood is able turns words, their meanings and associations on their heads. The narrative is four timeframes interwoven together; we get various glimpses of the past, Offred at her current time and immediately before and after her capture. I felt like I was in a body of water casually drifting along and bumping into the same objects over and over again. It definitely made the story more interesting. If you love the writing style of books, then this is a must-read.
The theme obviously concerned the oppression of women. There are two aspects that I found most thought provoking, which I will concentrate on. First, is Atwood’s treatment of Christianity. You could easily assume that Atwood has manipulated a passage of the Bible to show pursue an anti-Christian agenda. This is far from the truth; it is clear that the terrorists used the passage as a vehicle to push forward a patriarchal state. There are also examples of Christians and other religions that exhibit good behavior. Overall, this book is well-balanced.
The other thing that was thought provoking was the sheer ignorance and lack of resistance leading up to the terrorist take over.
"They said it would be temporary. There wasn't even any rioting in the streets. People stayed at home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn't even an enemy you could put your finger on."
I asked myself “Would I stand up? What difference would I make?”
This book is dark and heavy; if you do read it, I would suggest having some chocolate or something as a pick me up and I wouldn’t read it if you are in a bad place. (As an aside, I think books with upsetting content should have a blue dot sticker. The notion of trigger warnings should be applied to books.) Despite it being emotionally draining, it is one I enjoyed and would thoroughly recommend.
This book is available to buy here, where I receive a small commission. Money raised will be used to fund giveaways.
Original Publication: 1986
Publication Date: 1996