The Handmaid’s tale by M. Atwood (the book)

About the Book

The Handmaid’s Tale is not only a radical and brilliant departure for Margaret Atwood, it is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men of its population.

The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.

My Review, references to the TV series and my thoughts on the reality (no spoilers)

I listened to an audio version of the novel The Handmaid’s tale by Atwood, as my dad said I should watch the TV series. I know this makes little sense without an explanation – and here it comes – I don’t like my books spoiled with the films, as I often find that the books are much better than the movies based on them.

This time however, I would say that the TV show has taken many steps further in the development of the story line and it is better than the book and yet I am happy I read the book first, because if I did it the other way round I’d have felt like I’m listening only to parts of the actual story, which is somewhat true. Many things are not revealed in the book and are open to interpretation and our imagination.

Listening to the book made my mind confused at times, as it felt like I am either not listening carefully or that the book was made up of snippets of the story and slammed together into a book, but you’ll find out what the case is at the end of the book.

The Handmaid Offred portrays a dark time of Christian fundamentalism that has seized power from the government through coups and has evolved as a consequence of war, radiation, pollution and huge infertility rates. Those in power believe that they’ll make people happier and ensure that future generations live better, but suppression, oppression, repression, denial of rights, abuse of people and power as methods they use are not making anyone happier or better off.  People are trapped, tortured, threatened, brainwashed, punished into compliance. Those in power believe that the gruesome faith that has come upon their world is God’s wrath – a punishment to all living in sin. In my view, the sin we commit every day has nothing to do with what we do in our personal lives, but what we do as societies allowing our governments to ignore warnings about climate change, waste, pollution, disappearing species; and allowing them to abuse certain groups of people in various ways.  The scary thing is that the depicted dystopian political regime is possible to happen in any century and in any country in the world.

The biggest terrorists are governments, instilling hate between groups, not ensuring equal rights, not taking care of their peoples, ruling in corrupt fashion, money over ethics and morals, money for power and power over people at any cost. And this is way too easy to see when one reads books like The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Brave New World, The Giver, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, The Hunger Games, Never Let Me Go, etc.

In the Handmaid’s Tale, religious fundamentalism oppresses women, they are not allowed to make choices, they are kept prisoners, they are not allowed to be literate, they are not allowed to hold property or have their own money, they are used for ‘baby production’ only – they have no other value in society – they are degraded, reduced to human organs, no feelings, no consciousness, no consideration for their mental health. I hope everybody can see that this illustrates all possible forms of abuse. The abuse doesn’t stop with women, people with other than hetero sexual orientations are shunned and killed, or worse this is where the TV series makes a few steps further to portray the extend of brutality in the hands of power. In the book, there is chasing, punishing and killing people for what was once legal e.g. abortion; that makes me consider how now that say Marijuana growing and trading is legal in a few of the North American states, there are still people in jail for marijuana related offences… Is the USA doing it’s best to catch up with law changes and help these people out to continue their lives, hopefully better this time? I don’t seem to see it happening quick enough, say not in proportion with the money that go into the treasury coming from legal trade of pot, and the reduced costs for police work on marijuana related cases… One would think they’d have the inclination to invest into resolving the old laws and let people who have not committed violent crimes out of prison, since it costs tens of thousands of dollars a year to keep a prisoner in.

Do you get my point dear reader, to me, this is negligence and abuse of power – at governmental level. Are there businesses and people in power who benefit from prisoners, sure (see this). And this is 2017 – this is happening, can we see it all? And I bring all of this to the surface, because we already have our own dystopian reality, we are brainwashed to see very little, to be concerned with superficial things, we are running the rat race, disconnecting.

Reading The Handmaid’s Tale is insightful, it is also brutal for the psyche. To really understand and appreciate the intensity and complexity of the story and the characters I advise that once finished, people go through the internet to find some good analyses of the book and discuss it with others who are reading or have read it too.

There are moments that will make you feel crushed and others that will infuriate you. This is one of those books that one should read when in the right state of mind… To me, it’s not a book to read on your journey to work at 7am, unless you can easily zone out and not think about the horrors the whole day. Having said that I will mention that the TV series are actually more brutal.

This is one of those books that have to be studied in schools and university, it provides an illustration of a possible reality, it can bring awareness of our current reality. And I am afraid, just like sci-fi books are the inspiration for invention and do become reality to one extend or another, dystopian books can act – as gruesome as it sounds – as manual books for dictators and governments.

So in few words, I do recommend The Handmaid’s Tale – the book and the TV series too.

Check out the book here > The Handmaid’s Tale

Side note
And after a long while of avoiding the second season of Mr Robot, I think I am ready to continue it… I need to see the battle against governments to stop feeling so crushed by the reality I lived through in the Handmaid’s tale -book and series.

Leave a Reply