If nothing else, read the chapter on advertising in this book: that alone is worth the cover price. I've read it three times already and I'm finding sIf nothing else, read the chapter on advertising in this book: that alone is worth the cover price. I've read it three times already and I'm finding something new to think about each time in that chapter. Friedan does this trick of hitting it out of the ballpark a couple more times in the book... a ho-hum chapter here and then suddenly WHAM. Certainly makes one sit up.
Though some parts of this book are a little dated (its focus on white middle-to-upper-class women, its insistence on devaluing motherhood, its support of Freudian antihomosexuality etc), there are overwhelmingly more parts of it that are still fresh and very relevant today. This is a must read for any feminist and probably an eye-opening read for anybody else. ...more
Gilead is a nation where women have lost all their rights because of mass infertility: this is a society that cannot even take the risk of allowing itGilead is a nation where women have lost all their rights because of mass infertility: this is a society that cannot even take the risk of allowing its women to read, let alone live free, because that might mean losing wombs to contraception or abortion or, you know, *brains* or *thought* or *free choice*. Offred is a 'handmaid' in Gilead, one of the rare fertile women, whose sole duty and value to society is to produce offspring for her master, and that via some truly disgusting ritual sex involving lying between the legs of the master's infertile wife while he goes at it. For the majority of the book she just goes about her duties quietly with just the slightest hint of dissatisfaction. She, like all other women in Gilead, has spent years being brainwashed in reeducation institutions. The book is her story, of her journey towards rebellion and, can it be, an actual bid for freedom?
The Handmaid's tale is a good book, an important book, even a well-written book... but it just wasn't very arresting or very moving for me. While the situations described are indeed sufficiently dire, there needs to be something more, n'est-ce pas? A little more care for the protagonist. A little more raw hatred for the villain of the piece, even if the villain be as nebulous as "society". A little more curiosity about what is to happen, a little more urgency and crisis in the story.
I was able to get through the book completely detached. Something about the writing forces one to intellectualize rather than feel its events. I needed more visceral emotion from this narrator. 1984 was much better that way. ...more
For the first time in years it was like reading a book written by an adult who has thoughts worth writing down, not just entertaining sLoved this one.
For the first time in years it was like reading a book written by an adult who has thoughts worth writing down, not just entertaining stylings by someone who knows how to spin me a good story of little consequence. For example:
There are souls...whose umbilicus has never been cut. They ever got weaned from the universe. They do not understand death as an enemy; they look forward to rotting and turning into humus.
A scientist can pretend that his work isn't himself, it's merely the impersonal truth. An artist can't hide behind the truth. He can't hide anywhere.
Perhaps it's dubious praise coming from me, since I neither read nor understand most books labeled True Literature (tm), but this sure felt like the real deal. The book felt meaty even though it's quite short, especially for this genre.
I found myself lingering over the simplicity and clarity of the writing, which was sometimes almost poetry. For example, the opening lines:
There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb, it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an, idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.
Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.
and later in the book -
Gvarab was old enough that she often wandered and maundered. Attendance at her lectures was small and uneven. She soon picked out the thin boy with big ears as her one constant auditor. She began to lecture for him. The light, steady, intelligent eyes met hers, steadied her, woke her, she flashed to brilliance, regained the vision lost. She soared, and the other students in the room looked up confused or startled, even scared if they had the wits to be scared. Gvarab saw a much larger universe than most people were capable of seeing, and it made them blink. The light-eyed boy watched her steadily. In his face she saw her joy. What she offered, what she had offered for a whole lifetime, what no one had ever shared with her, he shared. He was her brother, across the gulf of fifty years, and her redemption.
For the first time ever I want to ANALYSE a book in a very textbooky fashion after I've read it - I'm going off in daydreams pondering questions like (WARNING: MINOR SPOILER) "Why does Shevek reject his mother? Is this significant in terms of the Odonian belief in gender equality?" (END OF MINOR SPOILER) and "Is LeGuin saying an anarchist society can only exist in a desert, not a land of plenty?" When I was at school, they made us ask and answer such questions on whatever we were supposed to read for Lit class, it used to ruin the book for me.
Another first is that even though I obviously loved this book, and found LeGuin very convincing and very impressive, I'm not a convert to Odonism/anarchism. That's a minor miracle, you know. I'm very convertible. Ask anyone. But LeGuin has a faith in the goodness of human nature that I don't share - in her anarchist Anarres it takes seven generations for even a semblance of a power structure to form; I don't think real human beings would "be good" for a seventh as long. Le Guin's argument is that a strong-enough culture of constant revolution is capable of achieving that. Maybe she's right, who knows? I was brough up in the opposite sort of culture, the capitalist one, which so frequently reminds me that man's basic nature is greed/power-seeking that it probably is self-perpetuating. I probably cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to have the other half of human nature - goodwill, sociality, pure love of work/play that is its own reward - reinforced a hundred times a day by the world around me...
There I go on another daydream.
Interesting side note: I read this book in half-hour installments because that's how long my commute to work is, and since I have to walk a little to/from the bus stop, I spent about 10 minutes before and after the half hour reading session thinking about what I had read. That really added to my experience of this book. I think it would have been quite different if I had inhaled it whole in three hours on the couch, as is my usual fashion. Hmm... Something to be said there for patience with one's reading material, but of course it's very rare to find a book that deserves it as much as this one does.
(Immediately, Odo admonishes:
"For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think."
But I disagree: discrimination is important and valuable when it comes to ideas. We cannot go through life treating each as if it were exactly as deserving of our time as the next.)
Well, I can never find a good way to end reviews of this sort. I loved it, I think you should read it, it's an awesome book. That is all....more
Much better on the second read. So many spectacular set pieces and unforgettable visuals - Shadow walking in the cold of Lakeside, the carousel of theMuch better on the second read. So many spectacular set pieces and unforgettable visuals - Shadow walking in the cold of Lakeside, the carousel of the Gods, the vigil, the coin tricks. And the premise is so original, and so well executed. Loved it. ...more