Meg's Reviews > The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
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's review
Apr 19, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: sci-fi, modern-classics, religion
Recommended to Meg by: just about everyone I know
Recommended for: dystopian feminists
Read from May 27 to June 01, 2012 — I own a copy

I'm amending my earlier review, because I have since realized at least one aspect of the novel that I missed before and that gave me more respect for the book.

I wish I had read this in the environment of a literature course where I could have been pointed to some of the nuances and layers without having to flounder around and find them for myself. On the surface, there isn't that much to recommend The Handmaid's Tale over other modern dystopian classics like A Brave New World or Fahrenheit 451. ...unless you're a raging feminist... It's possible (nay likely) that all three of these have a subtle net of complex subtext and clever ideas woven through them, but the fact that I was able to pick up on at least one of them raises the novel a notch in my opinion.

I am a bit of a post-feminist, and I feel like this novel is pretty much beating you over the head with the feminist stick, but given its original date of publication, this really just makes it a bit dated in the same way that we feel we've slightly outgrown parts of 1984.

I think that people react strongly to their first loved dystopian novel in a way that will never be repeated. It's that moment when you read a book that questions society's future and you say, "Oh my! What if this really happened?!" For me that was A Brave New World back in high school, which opened my eyes to an alternate world view (in a realistic and frightening way that didn't involve a parable of barnyard animals). I imagine that The Handmaid's Tale fills the same space in many other readers' hearts. Which is better? I don't know. Perhaps it's time to re-read Huxley. However, there's still something about the hype that The Handmaid's Tale just didn't quite live up to.

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