K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
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Apr 03, 11

bookshelves: 1001-core, 501, sci-fi
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010), Governor General Award for Fiction
Read from March 27 to April 03, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 1

In Atwood’s book this novel is a speculative fiction. She says that science fiction is something that cannot happen in the current times (knowledge, technology) including those that happen outside Earth. Speculative fiction, on the other hand, has the feasibility of happening and the current and in the near future especially in here on Earth. Had I not read this book, I would not have learned the difference between this two. I originally classified this book as a sci-fi until this morning. I originally thought that this book is a feminist work until this morning when I was thinking of what to put in this review.

More than being an imaginative work of art, this book is a social, political and religious criticism. Particularly on people who have extremist views. Social: For example, proponents of feminism align with religious organization which might backlash because those fundamentalist belief the religious organization might result to a Gilead-like situation where rules are based on the Old Testaments like Leah-Rachel which in the book translates to Serena Joy-Offred. Political. Gilead is created via a military coup where the ruling class believe in the theocracy. So, they created a government whose laws are based on the Old Testament. A man whose has a sterile wife can have a concubine (handmaid). A divorcee is considered to be committing sin so he has to go back to his original wife and his current wife is considered as an adulterer and their child is born out of wedlock. Religious. That the Old Testament, if taken literally, can create a totally different dystopian totally-distorted world.

Thus, there are so many lessons here that Atwood chose to tell not by just listing them down but by creating a whole different sad world and provide an opportunity for her reader to reflect on what is currently going on around him and at the same time be entertained on knowing what could happen if people with extremist views rule the earth. The mood is totally dark. The narrative is shifting but basically in first person: Offred (means the handmaid of a man called “Fred”) alternately addressing his narrations to herself (in chapters entitled “Night”) and to the reader (in the alternating chapters). The characters are coded according to colors: handmaids wear all-red except for the wings, aunts wear brown, marthas in green, econowives in multi-colored dress.

Salvaging is a term that originated in the Philippines and Atwood entitled her second to the last chapter with it. Salvaging, in the Philippines, means an execution of unwanted elements, normally politically motivated and done in secrecy. However, Atwood used it in the book as public execution of dissenters by hanging. This book came out in 1985 at the height of the political unrest that led to the People Power Revolution and the ouster of ex-President Marcos in 1986. I was not a voracious reader then so I just ignored this. I am now glad that I finally read this.

My only comment is that Atwood spent pages and pages for Offred to reminisce and miss her husband, Nick and children who were exiled when they were caught fleeing to Canada at the start of Gilead. In the end, I thought that Atwood would give something for the readers to be happy about by having the family reunited. Me being a romantic wanted to have a bit of happy ending there in the last chapter.
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Reading Progress

03/27/2011 page 9
3.0% "The mood is dark and sad. Seems like there are drastic changes on how women are being treated in that world. Angels seem to be the people who were born after those changes. Who are those people mentioned in the end: Alma, Janine, Dolores, Moira, June."
03/27/2011 page 49
16.0% "Who are Rita, Cora and Aunt Lydia? Who is the narrator and why is she in exile? What is she doing in the house of the Commander? The wife of the commander is an ex-TV star? It says in the blurb that the women in those times only dream of becoming impregnated. This is an interesting sci-fi so far. What is a Martha?"
04/03/2011 page 310
100.0% "Will write the review tomorrow. The ending is not that great."

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Mine you'll know the answers soon enough. =) aside from marthas, there are also wives, daughters, aunts, econowives, unwomen, and guardians (that last one is an all-male group).


Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly After Aditya comes my next marvelous discovery: genius-looking GENIA LUKIN from Israel. Please read her very nice review of Fielding's Tom Jones then invite her to be your friend. Thank you.


message 3: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Great review!!


message 4: by Monique (last edited Apr 03, 2011 09:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monique I wasn't sure what I expected for an ending... but what I got was definitely a surprise. Like you, I didn't lose hope that a family would be reunited. But I enjoyed the open-ended-ness of the conclusion. :)

Thanks K.D., for being a great reading buddy! :)


K.D. Absolutely Friends, thanks for the like!

MONIQUE: Same here. Glad to be your reading buddy for this book!


message 6: by Tintin (new) - added it

Tintin Thanks to you I now know the difference between speculative and regular SF :)

But I did think Offred's chances of reuniting with her husband and child were slim. For most of the book I believed Luke to be dead. I think even Offred knew this deep inside, which is why she always corrects herself from saying 'was' instead of 'is' when referring to Luke :(


K.D. Absolutely TINTIN: Still I was hoping when I started reading the last part.


message 8: by Tintin (new) - added it

Tintin ^Well yes, there was still that thread of hope.

It's just that I'm a glass is half-empty person, ahah.


K.D. Absolutely Yes, I noticed that.

And I am the hopeless romantic.


message 10: by Tintin (new) - added it

Tintin Weehee.... didn't expect you to be a hopeless romantic :D There's something charming about hopeless romantics that even hardened cynics like me acknowledge ;)


message 11: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Since you met me yesterday, did I come across as hopeless romantic to you? Ha ha


message 12: by Tintin (new) - added it

Tintin Kuya, you were so calm and soft-spoken. I didn't really expect it. So maybe you really are a hopeless romantic ;) (Like my hubby hahaha).


Christine I read this book when I was in HS, before I learned social theories and feminist views. But still, it was thought-provoking and moving. I love Atwood's style (she is also a poet, of course). I got a copy last week because my HS Math teacher "collected" my copy! Maybe I will revisit this novel.


message 14: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Christine, thank you for the like.


message 15: by Honeypie (new) - added it

Honeypie Lois Lowry said that this is her favorite dystopian book! Can I borrow? Hehehe! Sana maalala ko sa next meeting ng PRPB : )


message 16: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely O sige, gumagawa ako ng mental list sa mga librong gusto mong hiramin. Sure, nagpapahiram talaga ako ng books sa mga friends.


message 17: by Honeypie (new) - added it

Honeypie Yay! Thanks KD! :)


message 18: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Honeypie wrote: "Yay! Thanks KD! :)"

Welcome, Honeypie. Kita kits sa "Connect" :)


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