The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Series: The Handmaid’s Tale #1
Published by Vintage, 4th August 2016 (first published 1st August 1985)
Genres: Dystopian fiction, classics
Source: Purchased (second-hand)
Offred is a Handmaid and her sole purpose in life is to breed. Her existence is strictly controlled and highly restricted by the totalitarian regime under which America now lives. The birth rate has declined so drastically that certain measures have been put in place. Offred has been assigned to a high-ranking Commander and his Wife, to provide them with a baby.
If she fails or disobeys in any way, she faces a public hanging or exile into the barren radioactive wastelands. But Offred remembers her life before becoming a Handmaid. She remembers her name, her family and the freedom she used to enjoy. Will the threat of execution or exile be enough to stop her from seeking out her family and freedom?
This book is quite something! It is so chilling and gripping that I found it very hard to put down. That being said, I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. Having finished reading it, I don’t really know how to feel about it, especially the way it ended. Maybe that’s the point! Maybe the aim was to create a certain atmosphere and make the reader question society and where it may be heading? I don’t know… But I did enjoy it.
I thought the dystopian world that Atwood created was brilliant. The different roles with their distinctive uniforms and regimented lives, the system of fear where nobody knows who to trust, the subversive elements which still thrive under totalitarianism. It was also very interesting to read some of the background to this story, which I was lucky to have in the back of this beautiful vintage classic edition. Nowadays, dystopian fiction is quite commonplace, with the likes of The Hunger Games, Divergent and others, but that was not the case when Atwood wrote this book.
The writing style is also very interesting, with a blend of Offred’s present life and her memories from life before the Red Centre. This really helped to show the stark contrast between her two lives and how much things changed in such a short space of time.
Overall, I would say that I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t love it. I would be interested to watch the recent TV adaptation, although I have heard that it differs from the book quite a lot.
My rating: 4/5