Dystopian, New Adult/Adult

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Handmaid's Tale (orig) - Two Dollar Radio Headquarters

Pages: 314

Series: The Handmaid’s Tale #1

Publisher: Anchor Books

Release Date: April 1985

Genre(s): Dystopian

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“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 births, 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.”

What Did I Think?

Given its dystopian genre, the overall concept of The Handmaid’s Tale was both intriguing and disturbing if one takes the time to think about what it would actually be like to live in a world like Gilead. I enjoyed the “before and after” separation of the story. It allowed the reader to gain an understanding of how different things were and orient themselves in the “new look” of the world our protagonist, Offred, is living in. I enjoyed the flashback of the past that came up in the present-day parts of the story, as well as how thoroughly the logistics of Gilead were explained. While I have found myself growing out of my love of dystopian novels, The Handmaid’s Tale had the perfect blend of elements that make it dystopian and those that are completely unique to this story, keeping me engaged from beginning to end.

I fell in love with Atwood’s writing from the very first chapter. Every line is so poetic, and the way she describes this world and the happenings in it are absolutely beautiful to read — a sharp contrast to the objects and situation she’s actually illustrating using this language. The fact that she spends the most time describing things that aren’t all that relevant to the plot is an interesting twist on what a lot of modern writers do, and I found myself really enjoying it. For example, the reader finds out exactly what’s in Offred’s bedroom, though this setting is rarely mentioned again. If I had to pick one stand-out from the entirety of The Handmaid’s Tale, it would have to be Atwood’s writing style and the places she chooses to add these beautiful descriptions, hands down!

Offred’s character was so fascinating to me. At first glance, it appears that Offred it okay with just going with the flow of the standard that Gilead has for handmaids — they are to have the Commander’s children that the Wives can no longer have due to being rendered infertile. This obviously frustrated me because unlike so many of the other characters, Offred remembers what it was like in the “before,” and I kept thinking, “Why are you settling for a life like this when you know how good it used to be?” However, another side to Offred came out as she started interacting with some other multi-dimensional characters. Given how horrible Gilead’s consequences for resistance are, it makes sense that Offred would have been afraid to speak out against those who have more power than her. In an attempt to keep spoilers at bay, I enjoyed seeing Offred’s character develop more and more as she realizes that she’s not the only one looking for a way out.

The Handmaid’s Tale was a compelling dystopian read that contains many overarching themes that are still relevant today, though it was first publishing in 1985. I found the plot engaging and well-paced, and the characters (very nondescript names and all) very dynamic, as many aren’t as they first appear. Atwood’s beautiful and descriptive writing style was the icing on the cake to this masterpiece. While The Handmaid’s Tale is already considered a classic for more reasons than one, I have a feeling that past and future readers will hold onto this book and never let it go!

*UPDATE: Just saw that there is a second book called The Testaments, YAYY! Definitely going to be giving that a read in the near future, especially after the cliffhanger at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale!*

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*NOTE: This book is only suitable for mature audiences due to graphic violence and other adult themes. For this reason, I would not recommend this to readers under the age of 16*

If you’re a lover of the world-building and overall darkness of other dystopian novels, I highly recommend you give The Handmaid’s Tale a read!

I would also recommend The Handmaid’s Tale to fans of Veronica Roth’s Divergent, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds.

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