BJ Rose's Reviews > The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
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Apr 14, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 1001-books, dystopia, futuristic, library-books, spring-challenge
Recommended to BJ Rose by: spring challenge

Written in 1986, The Handmaid's Tale is disturbing, frightening, and almost prophetic in its telling of the downward spiral that can be the consequence to society when extremist views of any ilk are translated to violent action. This was a compelling read - I didn't want to find out what had created the world in which Offfred resided, but I was drawn into the telling and the horror of what fanaticism produces: never the intended freedoms that are so anticipated, but the dehumanization of members of society as the leaders attempt to create a new and better world. As the Commander said, when he was virtually acknowledging that they had created an unacceptable, unwanted world: "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. We thought we could do better." The assassination of a president is too sadly believable, but the planned, violent takeover of government by the machine-gunning of the entire Congress?This is still unbelievable to me, but isn't that what people of other countries felt before it happened to them?

Another quote: "Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations." But what happens when there are NO compensations, as was the case for the Handmaids, who were totally dehumanized. Is this when unrest leads to uprisings and rebellion and outbreaks of resistance?

There were many lovely tidbits of thought sprinkled throughout this Tale - but then, when you have nothing but time, as was the case in Offred's existence (have you noticed that I refrain from calling it her life? since no real living appears to be available to her), it must help to think of things beyond the routine of living. Some of my favorites: 'one and one and one and one doesn't equal 4 because each one remains unique'
"Why is it that night falls, instead of rising like the dawn? You can see the darkness rising from the horizon... like a black cloud."

I was really touched by her prayer, as she's thinking her way through the Our Father...
"I don't believe for an instant that what's going on out there is what you want"
We need you to provide a heaven... Hell we can create for ourselves."
"You must feel pretty ripped off. I guess it's not the first time."

And how said when life is so bland and bleak, so scripted and restricted, that thinking about having a fight over unimportant things (like whose turn it was to clean the toilet) can look so appealing. I did like the open unknown of the ending that allowed for a possible positive outcome. And the epilogue that I expected to be boring was anything but - it filled in some answers while still leaving some things open to my own interpretation.

I don't expect to grab another Atwood book immediately - I'll need a lot of positive reading to bring back the sunshine - but I'm not sorry I read this.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Kasia I don't expect to grab another Atwood book immediately - I'll need a lot of positive reading to bring back the sunshine - but I'm not sorry I read this.

That's how I felt after finishing it March last year, I haven't read another Atwood yet. I keep pushing her books back the queue, oh well.


Fani *loves angst* Great review BJ! It makes me want to read this one.
I have however Blind Assassin on my TBR for many years and only managed to read the first 30 pages. I'll probably start with this one someday and see what I think of her writing.


message 3: by Liz (new) - rated it 1 star

Liz The Handmaids Tale is one of only two books that have made me cry uncontrollably, those deep, wrenching sobs. I was a very new mother back then, and anything to do with kids and mothers would have set me off then. But I've never touched a Margaret Atwood book again - do you think I should give her another go?


BJ Rose Liz wrote: "The Handmaids Tale is one of only two books that have made me cry uncontrollably, those deep, wrenching sobs. I was a very new mother back then, and anything to do with kids and mothers would have ..."

Oh! Liz, I can understand why this would have been so emotionally upsetting for a new mother - I thought of my own kids and grandkids a lot while reading this, and remembered how distraught I felt when I thought I might miscarry my 4th child (who is now the mother of two).

I am also reluctant to pick up another Margaret Atwood book anytime in the near future, as I have heard that nearly all of her books are dystopian, so I'm not going to recommend either way. I've heard both good and bad about Oryx and Crake, which is described as "so terrifyingly-all-too-likely-to-be-true" (think I'll skip that one for now!), but if I read another, it may very well be Alias Grace. But again, I have plenty of depressing reading and listening material in my library without picking up another Atwood- what idiot (ME!) follows The Handmaid's Tale with One Second After??!!


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