The Handmaid’s Tale is an account of a woman whose name has been stripped away from her and reassigned as Offred (belonging to Fred). In her world there have been issues with fertility; Those who can bear healthy children are valued and used as handmaids for the husbands and wives who struggle to conceive. Women are forbidden from reading, doctors are no longer valued and the world is a scary, and very dark place to be.
Offred regularly thinks back to her life before becoming a handmaid, when things were normal and nobody owned her. These flashbacks further serve to highlight her distress. Somehow, if being a handmaiden was all she had known then perhaps the world wouldn’t seem so horrific. Her memories of her husband and daughter show just how quickly the world has deteriorated, and how much everyone has lost.
There are a few very intense scenes that will stay with me from The Handmaid’s Tale; a birth and a death in particular. The rituals surrounding these two events are shocking, but also completely believable.
What makes this book even more haunting is that you can see the modern world between the pages. The horrors of our past, and the nightmares of our future are stored within the chapters. Margret Atwood chose to not step into the implausible, but kept every law and every ritual as it had once been somewhere in the real world. Rather than creating a fictitious future, she has set the book in her own time with dystopian snippets from our past to make a believable horror. I will be haunted by scenes from this book for a long time.
The Handmaid’s Tale has been on my list to read for as long as i can remember, but the current TV series bumped it up my list as i really wanted to read the book first. I’m so glad i did, as this goes on my list of all time favourite books to recommend.
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