The Handmaid’s Tale

handmaod's taleThis is our next Book Club read. I haven’t finished it yet but Kate has and this is what she has to say about it.

As usual, we look forward to hearing from you, too, so please leave your comments on our page. This is great fodder for our Book Club evenings. You become an integral, virtual part of the meeting, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you.

By Kate:

Wow!

Oh wow! What a book; I’ll be thinking about this extraordinary story long after I’ve finished reading it. Grim, disturbing, shocking, menacing I had a horrible sense of foreboding every time I picked it up wondering what harrowing circumstances those poor people would have to further endure and the ending just created more unanswered questions and left you wondering about possible scenarios on so many different levels. I couldn’t put it down though; this will be hard to beat and it kept me gripped from start to finish; it will be hard to find a book equally as enthralling for a future read.

The book describes a dystopian world where many women have been left barren by nuclear toxicity in an area of North America named Gilead; consequently the new regime forces fertile women to live with the families of high ranking officials in order to provide babies for the elite. It is a terrifying world where women’s rights have been taken away from them, for example it is a crime for them to read and write; the handmaids are under the jurisdiction of the ferocious aunts who seem to take pleasure in subjugating their charges by torturing and punishing them for every minor misdemeanour with their inhumane cattle prod.
I loved the symbolism of the book with the handmaids clothed as demure Quakers in long dresses complete with white winged hats which restricted their viewing; yet the dresses were scarlet as opposed to the Marthas attired in brown and the high ranking wives decked in blue; are the handmaids dressed in red because in man’s Utopian world he has a vision/ fantasy of women with the subservience and obedience of a Quaker but the sexuality of a scarlet woman? The wives and aunts had control over the handmaids who all lived in fear of being shipped to the colonies where victims there were forced to clear up toxic waste without the benefit of any protective clothing whatsoever which led to their cruel and painful deaths within a few short years. All communities lived in terror and dread of the secret, sinister eyes who covertly spied upon the population ready to pick up offenders in their menacing black vans to steal them away to some unspeakable end.

The disturbing ending raised more questions than it answered although some clues are provided in the historical notes which provides further food for thought on the terrifying issues evoked. One thought Offred gave voice to remains chillingly in my head; she stated how humans accept and adapt so quickly and easily to changes in circumstances no matter how bad or wrong those circumstances are. I will finish now for fear of giving too much of the plot away but what a brilliant book, I will be thinking about this for a very long time.

‘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.’

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3 thoughts on “The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale

    Our new method of choosing novels for book club means that we have a more varied library to choose from. Being first alphabetically meant that I was responsible for choosing a few novels that have been on my to-do list for a while and the group would pick one of the three to read. In this instance, The Handmaid’s Tale was unanimously chosen which thrilled me. I wanted to see the new tv show but refused to do so until the book had been read. It has been on my radar for some time new, being one of the most critically acclaimed books I have come across. Everyone I knew who had read it had told me it was a marvel – a feminist, anti-religion parable that echoed many events currently occurring in reality. Written in the mid-1980’s, I was curious about just how prescient Margaret Atwood had been and the novel actually frightened me in this regard.
    The writing in the novel felt to me rather dream-like which is unusual considering how grounded and oppressive the atmosphere and events are. Offred’s tale moves back and forth between her horrific current situation and her fading memories of past events so a hazy milieu is fitting.
    Not much happens in the novel. This would sometimes be a criticism but is not here. It’s not an adventure – it’s a grim, paranoid fable that hits hard. Rather than being a spy thriller or a tense escape story, Offred’s rebellion is a subtle one, a rebellion of looking anywhere but the floor. She doesn’t protest in the town square – she has whispered conversations in dark rooms and plays Scrabble. It sounds rather amusing but it absolutely is not. She is in great danger, as is every woman in this world. Offred’s tale made me very uncomfortable, as it should to anyone who reads it. I wish I had read it ten years ago. I think this book should be required reading for everyone, especially school children. It might help save some lives.

    5 out of 5.

    Liked by 2 people

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