Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale, 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…” -Goodreads

Why do I do this to myself?

It’s well-established that I don’t like dystopian. I’ve never liked, I’m never going to like it; why do I keep trying to read it?

The Handmaid’s Tale is a new kind of dislike for me, though. Generally I like nothing about a dystopian book; but this time I found the world Atwood created to be very interesting, but too disturbing to actually enjoy. Which I suppose is the point.

Atwood has created a world in which the overuse of contraceptive methods—birth control as well as abortion—has rendered most of the world infertile (and by “the world” I mean women, because, surprise, men seem as fertile as ever, and aren’t passed around like chattel).

Those in power have decided that it’s better to be a police state than go extinct, and they ensure the continuation of the human race by turning them into uneducated, frightened sheep.

Many of the elements in Atwood’s novel are similar to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, but it’s nice to have a female main character. Most of the story is Offred’s internal monologue, and she’s a detailed, thoughtful, intelligent narrator.

This story made me much too uncomfortable and angry to enjoy reading it. It did, however, make me think, which is of course the entire purpose of dystopian. Well done, Atwood. Now let’s never speak of this again.

Mount TBR 2013(I read this book as part of The Mount TBR Challenge. Here’s to a shorter list!)

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