Book Reviews: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve heard a lot about this book, and I finally gave in and read it. I read it all in one sitting, when I was supposed to be asleep, but I just couldn’t close it.

The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in a cold, disjointed, modern Puritan society. The government has crumbled in place of a theocracy and women are reduced to chattel. You can only hold so many positions- a wife of a Commander, an “econowife,” a Martha (a servant), an Aunt, or a handmaid. A handmaid is a woman still fertile in a barren society; she is assigned to live in a household for a two-year period and must try to become pregnant in the stead of the barren wife. Three failed attempts, and you get sent to the colonies.

We know very little about the narrator, catching only bits and pierces of her real self through her story. There is an urgency, almost a desperation, in how the story is told. When the book ends you feel unsettled, both by the fear you have for the heroine and the terrible thought that this might happen to us.

I’m glad I read this. It’s an amazing book, the best kind- the kind that makes you think. That said, the next time I feel like reading something light, I don’t think I’ll reach for this first.

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