Friday, June 5, 2009

The Handmaid's Tale

I love Margaret Atwood. She's seriously one of the best writers around. I haven't read all her books yet and I'm glad for that, because I have so much to still look forward to. The one I just finished, The Handmaid's Tale, was so powerful that I even had dreams about it!

It's the story of Offred, told from her own perspective, in a kind of diary format. Offred lives sometime in the future, after we've ruined the environment to a disastrous extent and have to live with nuclear explosions and contamination. Offred's world forms in order to try and make things better than they were before - but as Offred herself says at some point, 'better' always means 'worse' for someone.

Offred's only purpose in the new world order is to breed. There is a whole class of girls like her, girls who make children for those who can't and are of higher societal (moral) standing. She lives pretty much in isolation, with only her thoughts and memories for company. Memories of the husband and child that were taken away from her.

All women are compartmentalised in this world. They are either there for breed or to be wives or to clean houses or to be prostitutes. Shades of grey don't exist. It's terrifying.

The Handmaid's Tale is a creepy book. It's a frightening book, all the more so because I think it could happen. The fanatics who control the new world exist in ours too, they just don't have as much power. Yet? Let's hope that the fact that such books are written and read (and there seem to be more and more of them in YA literature) will teach the younger generations respect for the environment and for humankind and thus help us avoid realities like the one in Atwood's book.

If you haven't read this yet, you must. That's all there is to it really.

Challenges: 1% Well-Read Challenge, 999 Challenge, A-Z Challenge, Banned Book Challenge, Classics Challenge, Eco Reading Challenge, It's the End of the World, Orbis Terrarum


Tasha said...

I think Margaret Atwood wrote a short story about a hairball that scared the crap out of me in high school. I'll add this one to my list.

Lezlie said...

I was working afternoons when I read this the first time, and I remember calling in sick that day because I couldn't put it down. I love this book!


Ana S. said...

Couldn't agree more with your whole review!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I read this one years ago and it has still stuck with me--I'd love to re-read it. Like you, I've kind of been holding on to my Atwood books instead of reading them all just so that I have something to look forward to. :)

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Charley--I read that hairball story and it was really frighening! :P

joanna said...

Charley - I've never heard of a hairball story, now I'm curious!

Lezlie - I totally get that, wanted to call in sick too!

Nymeth - I thought you would! ;-)

Trish - it's nice to do that isn't it? I'm just not one of those people who discovers an author and then reads everything they've ever written within a month!

Iliana said...

I love it when I have a long list of titles from an author I admire to look forward to don't you? :)

This book is a powerful one indeed. I read it, gosh, probably 15 years ago but I still consider it one of my favorite books ever.

Unknown said...

I would have never come up with "creepy" to describe this book..but once I read that..I thought - that's it! That really sums up the book! It's great, an interesting read, and yes, even a little creepy.

joanna said...

Iliana - yes, I think it's made it onto my favorites list too!

Kris - I just kept imagining this dark world and was totally creeped out! :-)