Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The story takes place in a fictitious 21st century United States in a totalitarian regime known as the Republic of Gilead. I think part of the enjoyment of the novel comes from the way details of the Handmaid's life, are revealed to the reader, so I won't go into too many here. Let's just say that in this society woman are only valued for their ability to reproduce, and that's it. Feminism has come and well and truly gone.
I found the ideas in the novel thought provoking and relevant. For instance, in a society where some members are surpressed and diminished, all the members of the society lose. Themes of identity, freedom, survival and the role of love are also canvassed.
The world Atwood creates, with its strange formalities and regulations but also blood lust and deprivation is convincing. The writing is economical and brutal, which certainly adds to the overall effect. It really is quite the horror story in many ways and I think works because, certainly as a female reader, it seemed oddly plausible and therefore frightening.
Ultimately like a lot of dystopian fiction I think, The Handmaids Tale illuminates aspects of what it means to be human, which we might otherwise take for granted. The novel does this well and I suspect has left me with a lasting impression. This story will not be to everyone's taste; it is odd and dark. I think it is one of those novels where my thoughts and opinions will settle a bit more with the passage of time. I certainly look forward to reading more fiction by Margaret Atwood, she has a unique perspective at the very least.