Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Why would you read a novel originally released in 1985 about a violent take-over by religious fundamentalists? Got to be dated, right? (or not, considering recent political events). OK, well everyone smokes, and there is a mention of leg warmers; but if you define a classic as a book that transcends time then The Handmaid's Tale certainly fits the bill. It is also very dark and very good.

AND you must immediately go and Google the official trailer for the just released television series: go on, I'll wait. Looks amazing doesn't it? Screening on pay TV now. With the author Margaret Atwood as an executive producer and starring Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men and Top of the Lake), a read or re-read of this book is in order.

The plot: kind of like the Stasi joins forces with Gloriavale and takes over the United States. Fertility rates are dangerously low due to the toxic environment, and fertile women are forced to be surrogate mothers (Handmaids) for privileged Commanders and their barren wives, in the new Republic of Gilead. Dissenters are given medieval punishments and strung up as a reminder. The main character Offred (literally of Fred, her Commander) is a woman who had tried to escape with her child and partner at the beginning of the regime in her previous life. She has no idea what happened to either of them after she was sent to a re-education centre, where sadistic ‘Aunts’ brainwash the women to accept their status as a handmaid; or banish those who do not comply.

When her Commander requests secret meetings with Offred she is fearful. In a world that forbids women to read, she is perplexed and amazed when the lonely and troubled Commander wants nothing more than conversation and games of scrabble. She also has covert friendships with other members of the household; all the while aware they may either be members of the subversive Mayday underground resistant movement, or of The Eyes, Gilead’s secret police.

Margaret Atwood calls The Handmaid’s Tale speculative fiction, in that nothing in the book has not happened sometime, somewhere.

Disturbingly relevant.

Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link:  The Handmaid's Tale

1 comment:

  1. I read the book years ago and loved it. Currently watching the mini-series on Lightbox and it's also very good. Highly recommend both.