Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: The Handmaid's Tale

Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Anchor
Pages: 311
How I Got This Book: Own
Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads: 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 fertility, 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...

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

My Thoughts: For the first two-thirds of this book, I was pretty sure I was going to give it a three, which is what I rated the other Atwood books I had read in the past.  I really love the stories she has to tell, but I don't like the way she tells them.  She opens every one of her books in an unknown place that makes you ask yourself a billion questions about what's going on.  Then she very slowly reveals the answers, little by little, throughout the 300 pages or so of the book.  It's so frustrating!  I hate feeling lost and confused when I'm reading.  It sucks the fun out of it. 

Luckily, most of the more pressing questions I had about Gilead in this book were answered in the first half and I was able to really enjoy the last 100 pages or so, of which I would give 5 stars.  I love how she ended it with The Historical Notes.  I thought that was so creative and it made me think over the entire story of The Handmaid's Tale in a whole other way.  I actually felt more connected to the narrator, which I didn't feel so much while I was actually reading her story.  I don't know why I couldn't feel much for her in the beginning.  Maybe I distanced myself in preparation for the horror story I knew was coming when I opened to the first page.

One thing that disappointed about this novel was how easy Atwood had this society come into creation.  You take out the President and you take out the Congress and bing-bang-boom, you have a nation now ruled by a fanatic religious group and a society of oppressed women.  What really ticked me off was that there was hardly a struggle among the citizens to prevent this from happening!  At first, I thought that Atwood had cheated the story by writing it this way, but after some reflection I realized how plausible it all was.  People can be shamefully apathetic, especially during times when we most need to stand up and fight.


  1. Lovely review. I enjoy the way Atwood writes but I have to be in a particular mood because it can be frustrating. I'm interested in reading this one.

  2. I'm a fan of Atwood but I used to be a more patient reader. I haven't read one of her books in a while...I wonder how I'd react to the slow elements now. I've always thought the dystopia in The Handmaid's Tale was plausible because it was so simple.