The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Summary: Gilead is a North-American society whose past sounds hauntingly like our own, except for one crucial difference – a couple of decades ago, the U.S. government was overthrown by a Christian theocracy which instated a literal rule of the Bible that changed societal structure to the core. Our narrator Offred (actually, this is the name her position holds; we never know her real name) tells us her story and through it the story of Gilead, for she is one of the regime’s most cherished assets – a Handmaid, at the service of her Commander, kept alive for one thing alone: her fertile womb.
The Good: You may have noted that I have given only the bare outlines of a description since you really have to read this incredible novel to experience it, and the less you know about Gilead the more you will enjoy finding out about it. The writing is phenomenal, the references haunting, and you will repeatedly find yourself thanking your lucky stars for all the liberties we (as women, and as members of our society in general) take for granted – and think of the women in other countries whose life might be closer to this dystopian reality than we care to admit.
The Rotten: The artful switch between past reflections and present storyline continuously leaves you wanting more, turning the pages in suspense, so that some of the beautiful writing might only be enjoyed in the second or third reading of the book. Wait, was I supposed to talk about something bad here?
Best Enjoyed: On the tram, clad in jeans, on your way home to your own apartment, suddenly looking up and thinking about how incredibly more difficult your life could have been had you been born in a different place.
Fate of the Book: Read and reread many times, since I have it on my Kindle. Score.
“The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. 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.”