The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is an excellent dystopian novel with some bleak considerations of the potential future for women and feminism. I am sure that when Atwood wrote this, and when many people read it upon initial publication they thought it was bad enough and could see many connections. However, with the recent regressions in American politics and for women in the country, I am sure you can understand my terror when I finally started listening to the audio book. Atwood has definitely predicted, however extreme, a plausible future if things keep going the way they are.
This book speaks for itself, so I won’t re-cap the story for you. What I will say is that if you want a hard-hitting dystopian novel where women are reduced to baby-making vessels and the ways they can choose to fight back, then this is the perfect book for you.
Atwood’s story is compelling, terrifying and unsettling in the best ways and really makes you think about people and what they mean to us. One of the most interesting things about The Handmaid’s Tale is the way the men are portrayed by the main character, as she sees that they too have been limited in this new world, which shows on the whole what really happens when one gender is suppressed. With the women being reduced to Commanders’ wives and handmaids, the men are under pressure to impregnate the handmaids for their wives, but of course the women suffer the consequences if it doesn’t work. I felt throughout that while the men weren’t directly punished and put in positions of authority, they too were forced into their lives by the people in charge.
Offred is an intriguing character. Her past life as documented shows her as a normal, modern woman with life and prospects, and that represents the side to her we see fighting through the entire novel. She must battle all the time against her base ‘flight’ instincts in order to fight through the oppression and remain herself. The risky relationship she undertakes is her way of remaining connected to her old life and it makes her more sympathetic than you would think.
Overall, I would recommend this book to people who really care about the decline of society, especially in terms of current women’s issues in America. It really brings to light what could happen if we allow it to, and gives reasons for people, especially in the UK to hold on to what we have as it’s so much in comparison. If you liked The Power by Naomi Alderman, you will love this (and vice versa).