I'll be short, because everyone and their mom read this book in high school except me.
This book was brutal. Not in the gory, dark, war-makes-monsters-...moreI'll be short, because everyone and their mom read this book in high school except me.
This book was brutal. Not in the gory, dark, war-makes-monsters-of-men kind of way, but in the way that the main character seems so helpless in her situation. Her world is so bleak and she is so powerless to do anything about it. So much of me wanted her to be more active -- to fight tyranny, to stand up, to risk, to win. I was encouraged to read this book by someone who wanted me to compare it to Hunger Games: dystopian, female character, feminism, etc. And I have to wonder if the woman who suggested it did so for this very reason. The juxtaposition between a woman who dares to defy her prison and a woman who has been so broken she fears to do anything that might arouse suspicion. I root for Katniss, but when it becomes clear that Handmaid's Tale is not about good triumphing over evil...do I root for this woman? Am I annoyed at her submission and her consent? Disgusted that in a few short years she has accepted that this is her new way of life and there is nothing she can do? Am I a little bit angry with her? This isn't a story about an underdog gaining the courage to outsmart the enemy and join a revolution, and when I realised that I admit I was disappointed.
Needless to say when I read this passage I knew how awful I was being.
I wish this story were different. I wish it were more civilized. I wish it showed me in a better light, if not happier, then at least more active, less hesitant, less distracted by trivia. I wish it had more shape. I wish it were about love, or about sudden realizations important to one's life, or even about sunsets, birds, rainstorms, or snow.
And I know now that this woman's story is the story of so many women in the world right now: past present and future. Women who have been totally and completely stripped of their agency. Women who are just thankful to be alive and who will fight for that one freedom even if it means consenting to whatever horrible situations they're in, to submitting.
I want to believe I would behave like a Katniss in a similar situation, but the truth is that most of us are like the unnamed woman in Handmaid's Tale, and her story is a story worth telling.(less)
Talking bunnies. I know. Most people seem to have seen the film, thankfully, but I realized while I was reading the book that you’re put in a bit of an awkward position when the person questioning you about what you’re reading has never watched the movie (And if they’re not even a reader, then you’re even more screwed. You’re basically ensuring the non-reader’s previous assumption that readers are super lame).
Me: “It’s about these bunnies—rabbits! rabbits—and they have to leave their warren—you know, their home or whatever—because of human land development that’s going to destroy it, and they’re on the run trying to find a new home…and it’s really dangerous…er, it’s an adventure…really good…”
Doesn’t that sound lame? BUT THIS BOOK IS BEAUTIFUL AND FANTASTIC. It’s an epic adventure story that happens to feature rabbits, and there is nothing wrong with that! Its chock-full of honor and bravery and guts and daring and death and destiny! It’s beautifully written and moving, colored with some of the most fantastic characters. Hazel is like the baddest bunny who ever lived and should be our next president, Bigwig is a boss with a heart of gold, and Pipkin is my personal favorite. Thanks to urbandictionary, I discovered a new term: hossbunny. Freaking Pipkin is a hossbunny.
I’ll be honest and divulge that I almost gave it 4 stars for the underlying misogynistic tones*, but decided against it the end because The Princess Bride is also a 5 stars/favorites book for me and it’s pretty pathetic when it comes to female characters as well.
I probably still haven’t convinced a single new person to read this book, so if you need better convincing, then read some of the other classier reviews by the people who draw allusions to ancient epic poems and legends and mythology. They’re right on the money, but you should know that this book is also plenty enjoyable on a very basic level of WILL THEY MAKE IT and you might also need some Kleenex.
*Adams tried to brush it off with the ol’ “well, they’re rabbits, it’s just how their social structures are as animals blah blah blah…” I call BS. If rabbits can have beat poets, then I think the girl bunnies can have a bigger role than pure baby-making machines. Hyzenthlay was a teeny tiny ray of light in the dark, but still, her only point in the end was to have babies (which she did! Hooray! She isn’t worthless!). I think the part I cringed at the most was when the does escaped and got to do all the grunt work and digging at the new warren and were like, “Oh! We think this is the only reason we were unhappy at the old warren—we couldn’t dig!” Yeah, does, it wasn’t all the rape, overcrowding, torture, fear, and imprisonment. Not that. (less)