The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is turning out to be a year of really good reads. I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed reading The Handmaid’s Tale. This is the first Margaret Atwood book I’m reading and I started it with the knowledge of the cult fan following she enjoys. Having read it, I can understand why it is so and I am also a fan now 🙂

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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

I’m currently reading 1984 and between these two, I must confess I am getting quite freaked out. The Handmaid’s Tale is as chilling as dystopia can be and particularly at one point where Offred reminisces on and almost regrets about how she took magazines for granted, I found myself feeling quite …. what’s the word I’m looking for ? …. you get it, right ?

” …. was of the opinion from the outset that the best and most cost-effective way to control women for reproductive and other purposes was through women themselves. For this there were many historical precedents; in fact, no empire imposed by force or otherwise has ever been without this feature; control of the indigenous by members of their own group. In the case of Gilead, there were many women willing to serve as Aunts, either because of a genuine belief in what they called “traditional values”, or for the benefits they might thereby acquire.When power is scarce, a little of it is tempting.

Without much ado, let me just, in my usual style, scream at the top of my lungs that this is a wonderful read and you absolutely have to give it a go. It exceeded my expectations at being a page turner and the hard-hitting messages that need to be conveyed are done with subtlety without being preachy.

I found the best and most effective expression about this book on the back cover which was a section of the review in The Listener  — “Moving, vivid and terrifying. I only hope it’s not prophetic”.  Couldn’t have said it better !

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum ! 🙂

 

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