Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now... Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning and tour de force. (Taken from back of book)

I love reading books about dystopias (see 1984, Uglies, The Hunger Games), which is what first attracted me to The Handmaid's Tale. I decided to read it for my independent novel project and I'm really glad I picked it. It was set in a world not like any other. This new society is basically the same thing as the Muslim theocracies in the Middle East: women have absolutely no rights or freedoms. They are forced to wear concealing clothing and are not even allowed to know how to read or write. It sounds like a nightmare for most women. Even with such depressing topic, the story was so interesting. It's from the point of view of a Handmaid, and you can feel the desperation and hopelessness in the story, because, as the summary stated, women are only valued if they can produce children. And as Offred is in her early thirties and the Commander is even older, that could be a problem. There was also this neat epilogue that was from even farther in the future and it kind of explains how this new society came about. I really enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale and would recommend it to fans of science fiction.

8 out of 10.

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