Sunday, 22 April 2018

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a theonomic military dictatorship formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America. Women have lost their rights and each woman has a specific role to play. As a Handmaid, Offred's assignment is to produce children for the ruling class. If she should ever be found to be sterile, she would be exiled to the Colonies.

"There is more than one kind of freedom," said Aunt Lydia. "Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it."

How does one even review The Handmaid's Tale? I feel like I should just say something like "If you haven't read this yet, DO IT." End of review. But... I feel like this book deserves a full breakdown of my rambling thoughts, so here we go.

This book was truly captivating, I was engrossed from the very first page. Usually I will read in my car before heading into work each morning, well, let me tell you - for the past week I've been heading into work later than I intended to. I just could not stop reading. I couldn't! I'd think about the book constantly when I wasn't reading it, and that is truly one of the best reading experiences you could have.

The Handmaid's Tale is straight-up terrifying. It's like a fucked-up dystopian horror. And what makes it even MORE scary is that this is the kind of thing that could happen. Women's rights, especially their reproductive rights, are under constant threat in today's climate.

Atwood's prose is stunning, it's so eloquent and impactful, it blew me away. I had only read about ten pages and quickly decided I needed the entire Atwood collection. She's amazing and I can completely understand why she gets so much love from some of my fave BG friends. The characters are well-developed and three-dimensional, even if there isn't much interaction between them in terms of fully-fledged conversations. Initially the frequent lack of speech marks threw me off, but I quickly became accustomed to it and after a while didn't even notice if they were present or not. Usually that is the type of thing that would annoy me, but it just goes to show how powerful Atwood's writing is.

Offred, our narrator, moves back and forth between pre-Gilead and post-Gilead, so we are constantly piecing together how Gilead came to be, which kept the pages turning because I was dying to know how everything went down. It was particularly heartbreaking when Offred would reminisce about her life "before", I just find it so chilling how you can live your life with all the freedom you have become accustomed to, when one day the rug is just whipped out from under your feet and everything is turned upside down. You just can't foresee something like this happening, and that petrifies me. The story itself felt quite unpredictable and the events that enfolded just kept on shocking me, I wasn't prepared for how dark it would be. 

This book made me feel angry, upset, and yet it gave me hope. When I turned the final page I felt so sad because I will always want to know more about this world that Atwood has created. It's so fucked-up and chills me to my core, and yet I can't look away. This book is a must-read. 

"Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don't let the bastards grind you down."


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