Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Published: 1985
Genre: Adult Fiction – Modern Classic – Dystopian

Synopsis: Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She has only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

My Rating: red-starred-starred-starred-starred-star

So I have finally met Atwood and I can say that this was a good book to start with. Our story is a first-person account of Offred, she used to be a wife, a mother, an independent woman, and educated with a liberal feminist mother and a brazen brave lesbian best friend. All this begins changing when the government collapses, her bank accounts are frozen, her money is transferred to her husband and all women are let go from work. This story, despite being written in 1985, is shockingly resonant to most women today. I was having anxiety when the chapters of their castration of independence happens.

We find out this information as Offred tells you how her life is now, how her life was then, how she struggles against their way of thinking, how she’s constantly watching what she does. She has been selected as a ‘breeder’ or a Handmaid and is placed in a rich home of an infertile couple, usually older. The ritual is as follow: she is placed on a bed with the wife behind her, and the husband begins fucking her almost like the worst sort of threesome you can imagine. Symbolically he is having sex with his wife, the Handmaid as a conduit. If she gets pregnant the baby will belong to the couple and raised as their own, the Handmaid will be saved by God. If she fails to get pregnant and goes past her prime she will be an unwoman and most likely be cast out.

So I’ve given you the bones and basis of the story but truly the magic here is Atwood’s prose and social commentary. Offred is not always a reliable narrator but it’s done in the most clever of ways because the reality is something she’s failing to bear. It is too difficult and she hates her cowardice and how easily they have manipulated her.

This book is incredibly readable and feels incredibly modern, I highly, highly recommend it. As you can imagine I need to read more Atwood, she is FANTASTIC.


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