Daniel's Reviews > The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
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's review
Jul 18, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: read-2006

After reading "The Blind Assassin," I wanted me some more of Atwood's work; in retrospect, I am surprised that I picked up "The Handmaid's Tale" next. Why surprised? Because this book had a checkered history in my high school years, and as a result, I associated it far more with ridiculous drama than must-read literature.

It all went down in the 11th grade (circa 1995), when many of my friends were taking an AP English course. About halfway through the year, the instructor assigned "The Handmaid's Tale." They read it, discussed it, wrote about it, etc. Then the instructor said, "I want to show you the movie." Now, this film being racy--it is, after all, an adaptation of a book about concubines and surrogate mommies--the instructor did some legwork, printed out some permission forms, and told her class, "Get this signed if you want to see it; if you don't want to see it, you have my blessing and you will receive an extra assignment in lieu there of."

Guess what happened? One student did not like this film; said student also did not like that it was being screened in class. Mom gets involved. More Moms get involved. The administration jumps in. The school board steps up. Meetings are called. Parents and teachers and students sit in on those meetings, and the discussion rapidly heats well past the boiling point before it turns into a call to ban the book from ever appearing in the classroom again.

What? Let's get this straight: an instructor showed a film of questionable content; a student felt offense; and now we're talking about banning the book that this film is based upon from future classrooms. Oh, right, ok, the logic is clear. Crystal.

(A Few Good Men was big then, too)

Fortunately, the book, if I remember correctly, was not banned.

Fast forward to 2006 (I think): I pick this book up, and soon I am questioning the narrator. What's the big deal with certain words? Why this obsession with language? I figure, Atwood's is a superb intellect, go with it. So I do. And the further I read, the more involved I get; the more horrified I am by Atwood's vision of the future; the more I grow to hate the antagonists in the book; the more I want to root for this narrator and her secret collaborators; and--worst feeling--the more I dread that it's all gonna come crashing down Big Brother style, and the heroine and her companions are going to lose everything that makes them who they are and end up singing the fight song with all the meatheads that surround them.

Then I get to the end, and I learn exactly why Atwood's narrator stressed language: boom!!! goes the revelation in my brain, yielding kilotons of holy-shit-this-is-awesome.

Yes, "The Handmaid's Tale" comes with a reputation longer than a spool of ticker tape containing every word in this text. And you know what? Fuck 'em. This book rocks, and it deserves your attention.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2006 – Finished Reading
July 18, 2011 – Shelved
July 18, 2011 – Shelved as: read-2006

Comments (showing 1-1)

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Moira Russell Really such a kickass book, and I'm not just saying that because there's a Moira in it.

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