Kolleen's Reviews > The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
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's review
Jun 25, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: just-plain-weird, strange-but-good, thought-provoking
Read from June 19 to 25, 2011

Where to begin with this book? My friend lent me this book because she knows I like some bizarre shit, and let me assure you, this book definitely hits that mark. I had a love/hate relationship for the majority of this book, and to be honest, I still don't quite know where I stand, but I gave it three stars because I think it deserves it.

The first 100 pages were hard to get through. This is one of those books where you don't really know what's going on, but are only getting little clues along the way. If I hadn't been so far invested at this point, I would have shut the book and gave it the one star it deserved up until this point.

That being said, I continued on and found that I couldn't put this strange, perverted book down! So let me try to organize my thoughts here and give a bit of a summary. The Handmaid's Tale is about a world that has quickly changed. Some event (we never find out what) has taken place that has made most of the population, especially the men, sterile. The reproduction levels have dropped significantly, and a revolution is put into place to try to repopulate. First, women are stripped of their individualism. Their jobs, bank accounts, and even their families are taken away if they are unwed. Women that are still able to produce are taken in as Handmaid's, and those that are not are deemed Unwomen and sentenced to a terrible fate.

These Handmaid's are used to serve as a vessel for reproduction for a husband and wife, aka Commander and Wife, that are in need of a child. A Ceremony takes place on occassion where the Handmaid and the Commander will have sex to try to make a child. And this is where it all gets weird. The Wives take part in this ceremony, so much so that during the actual intercourse they are the ones that help to hold the Handmaid down for the Commander to have sex with! It is in this way that they feel that they are part of the entire process and not disgraced by an unfaithful husband, for they are part of the act. No one in this strange threesome likes their situation, for they are all being forced for the sole purpose of a child into being in uncomfortable situations. As Offred, the main character, describes these Ceremonies: "I am putting him on, trying him on, like a sock over a foot, onto the stub of himself, his extra sensitive thumb, his tentacle, his delicate slug's eye, which extrudes, expands, winces, and shrivels back into himself when touched wrongly, grows big again, bulging a little at the tip". Come again?! It was at this point that I really and truly wondered, 'Just what the hell am I reading'?!?!

However, the perversion could be overlooked and by the end of the book all of the snippets come together (well, for the most part), and leave you baffled at the bizarreness, and absolute possibility of a future similar to Offred's one. If you don't like a book with an ending that is open to interpretation, then this one is not for you. Overall, a pretty decent book, which although I'm not sure if I quite liked it or not in the typical ways I enjoy books, but I am glad that I read it.

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