Review: A Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

handmaid's tale book cover Synopsis: The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Title: A Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Vintage
Pub Date: 1985
Pages: 324
ISBN: 9780099740919

Rating: 5stars

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

A Handmaid’s Tale was one of those books on my ‘to read’ that never quite it to the top. When TV show came out in the UK and everyone had watched it; I did what any other bookworm would do. I completely ignored it all and bought the book instead.

I’m genuinely so happy that I did.

I started reading A Handmaid’s Tale with a bit of trepidation; there was so much hype about it that I was sure I wouldn’t like it. And then I’d have to become the terrible person who would have to lie and say it was OK.

Boy was I wrong.

This book wasn’t just OK, it wasn’t good, or brilliant, or even amazing. I’ve read plenty of books in my time and have used these adjectives for those I’ve liked, loved, or loved to hate. A Handmaid’s Tale, however, is one of those few books that really gets to you. That carves its own mark in your soul and leaves you irrevocably changed.

“But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.” 

Atwood doesn’t mince her words; she doesn’t waste them on eloquence and meaningless (yet beautiful) phrases. Her style is quiet, rich, and full of drama that bubbles just under the surface. Everything is subtle and, thus, doubly powerful – sometimes tear your hair out, tell me what’s going on type of powerful.

The beauty of the world Atwood builds is its eerie familiarity. The Republic of Gilead is terrifying, dark and very different to the society I consider myself to live in, right? It is…. Isn’t it? Elements from our cultural society are woven into the plot so masterfully that you can’t help but feel unsettled.

Is this where our society is headed?

Will we regress when faced with war and terror?

On reading this book, suddenly everything came into question. I became so much more sensitive to the subtle prejudices that happen in my life. I became so much more aware.

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.
We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

So now I’m stuck in this weird bubble, where I’ve finished (I’ve even watched the show) but I can’t quite move on from the book. It’s gotten to the point where I’m genuinely considering a re-read (yes I realise I only finished it a week ago) just so I can attempt to move on from the book.

Or I might buy some more books by Atwood.

Hmm… Maybe I’ll do both.

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6 thoughts on “Review: A Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

  1. Dystopia is one of my favorite genres because of how closely it falls sometimes to where our own society could go. This book looks amazing! I haven’t read it yet but think I am going to have to pick it up now 🙂 Yet another one for the TBR pile! I am a new follower 🙂 Love your blog!

  2. Pingback: A Literary Mind

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