'Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.'.
Since reading the Heart Goes Last I am all for Margaret Atwood. Granted I've only read three of her books... but all of them I have loved. And after hearing that The Handmaid's Tale was going to be coming to TV in April, I knew I had to read the book first.
The Handmaid's Tale is a feminist, dystopian novel. Margaret Atwood imagines an extreme Christian future for America, and in this future Women have absolutely no rights, they belong to men, to serve in what way they wish. And in a way, its a future I can imagine. You know, if the world went completely backwards and tits up, and even then, there are many places in the world where women are still seen as belonging to men rather than being their own person. Its scary, it's wrong, but its believable.
The thing with Atwood's writing, aside from having no quotation marks, is that she just jumps straight into the story. One minute Offred, our protagonist, is a working wife and mother, she is a free woman, then in the space of what feels like seconds she is covered head to toe in red garb, used as a baby machine for her new Commander. There is no in between. You would expect uproar if such a vast change in laws/events happened no? I, for one, would be screaming bloody murder if I strolled into work one day, to be told that I can no longer be there, oh and my partner is in charge of all of my money, you know, because he has a penis. Anyway, back on the book. Atwood jumps straight into the world she imagined, without much thought of what kind of timeline events would actually follow, and I understand it, she wants to get to her idea of the book, she wants to write about what she has imagined. And once you get past it, you're involved with the main story as well.
So, the book follows Offred, one of the few women left in the country that can have children (the subject isn't looked into much, but it is something to do with radiation, and of course it's the woman's fault if a baby isn't conceived, it has absolutely nothing to do with the man I mean all men are perfect right?) Anyway, it follows Offred in her new household where every month she has to lie back and try and have a baby with the Commander of the house (its even weirder than you first might have thought, the wife and the baby maker have to hold hands throughout the whole affair... very awkward) It isn't a fast paced novel, I see it more as just an introduction of such a world through Offred's eyes. We get glimpses of her past, contrasts to how she lives now, and hints of the affects of not following the rules. And thought I would have liked to have seen the darker side of the world, which you know there is one! You don't really get to see this, its a small gated area of the life that we get to look into.
All the same, I think Offred's view of it is believable. Time has past, and she has, pretty much, given up. She is resigned to this life she lives now. How she thinks, she seems numb to it, and in a way I think that is better than raving and screaming, she wouldn't get away with actions like that, not anymore, and she has a child, somewhere, she has to think of her, even when she thinks of suicide, which they have taken many precautions against, she still thinks of her child, and whether giving up would be anything more than letting them win.
Don't let the bastards get you down
I did enjoy the book, its slow but not monotonous, and I am looking forward to seeing how they translate it into a TV show - 4/5
Have you read a Handmaid's tale? If so, are what did you think? Are you looking forward to the show? Let me know in the comments below!