Nolite te bastardes carborundorum
So, a short and basic summary of The Handmaid’s Tale: this books takes place in a dystopian country where birth rates are drastically decreasing due to infertility. Offred is forced to live as a Handmaid, but before that, she lived a completely regular life – she had a daughter, and a loving husband, a job. Now, Offred lives in a society where Handmaids are only valued for being fertile – and their sole job is to help produce children to their male leaders.
I found Offred to be a very different and unique character. She’s not like a lot of your well-known fictional dystopian heroes. Take Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) or Tris (Divergent), those are characters in a dystopian setting, who have a strong spark of justice and of course they end up being the face of a rebellion. Offred is different in the sense that she (and most of the other Handmaids) rebel silently, with small gestures of defiances rather than a very public action or starting a civil war. In this book, their silence is their loudest scream for wanting change.
The book also deals with themes dealing with sexism and also examines the relationships between men and women. The sexism is heavy, and you will notice it throughout the book; I mean, this book is literally about women wanting their freedom and independence back so of course, they’ll have to fight through the sexism the face. I’ll try not to spoil the book at all but, one example I can give you of the heavy sexism the Handmaids face in the book is their name. Their names are possessive, so Offred’s name is literally ‘Of Fred’, as in she belongs to Fred (a male leader in the book). They’re not allowed to be known by their own names, only by the names they are given. Oh and one more thing I really want to mention, the point of a Handmaid is that they are fertile and able to produce children right? Well, in this society, only women can be considered infertile. Are you angry at the injustice yet?
So, on to a little bit about the author now, Magaret Atwood. I am truly a fan of this women, I love how she created a dystopian world as such, and even more so I love how she explored the themes of sexism in that society (while sexism is one theme, politics and religion are also present and explored throughout the book).
Why am I so impressed by her talking about sexism and politics in her book? Well, it’s simply because the society she created isn’t anything new, we’ve seen a society like that before. In an interview Atwood did a while ago, she stated that she “didn’t put in anything that we haven’t already done, we’re not doing, we’re seriously trying to do… So all of those things are real, and therefore the amount of invention is close to nil.” Atwood didn’t have to be so creative to write about that dystopian world, for most of us we are currently living in a less extreme version of it.
The only issue I have with this book is the lack of POC characters, they were more or less written off in a few sentences, near the beginning of the book (from memory). This disappoints me immensely, and sadly, a lot of literature excludes POC characters…
Before I finish off my review, I do want to add that this book has been adapted into a TV show called by the same name. Additionally, Magaret Atwood has won numerous awards for The Handmaid’s Tale and for her other works so, I won’t go into listing her awards since she has too many. But, I mean, is she has a lot of awards I can promise you that her books are loved by many.
To conclude this review, I won’t say how the book ended, but I loved the ending, and I’ll be honest I wanted to read more, and that doesn’t happen often – let’s be real, a lot of book endings suck. Luckily for me, Atwood is currently working on a sequel to this book. The Testaments will be the official sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and is already published. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, the themes and languages are a little bit explicit to keep that in mind if you decide to read it.
Note: this was originally published in 2019.
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