paperback, Vintage UK, 292 p.
WINNER of the Governor General's Award for Fiction 1985, Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 1986
(Book #15 for 2007, Book #2 for the Banned Book Challenge, Book #1 for the O'Canada Challenge)
“You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, is what he says. We thought we could do better.The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. . . . .
Better? I say, in a small voice. How can he think this is better?
Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.”
My third Dystopian SciFi Novel this year (the other 2 were Fahrenheit 451, and Nineteen Eighty-Four), and this one was, for me, the most compelling. The ‘future’ she presents here is frighteningly believable, with fertile women essentially forced into being nothing but breeding machines.
“We are two-legged wombs, that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices.”Of course there are already religious regimes that severely restrict women, but this story brings that loss of freedom and human rights closer to home and made me think about the role of women in society, and attitudes towards them, especially regarding sexuality.
Regularly on lists of the most challenged books in the US, primarily for sexual content, this extensive list of objections from PABBIS (Parents Against Bad Books In Schools) is enlightening/amusing. In addition to being "saturated with sexual allusions, innuendos, crude references, and seven actual sex acts described, one more than a page long", references to suicide, drugs, drinking and smoking, profanity and being a vicious attack on Christianity, "there is also a very detailed account of giving birth, and a graphic description of the menstrual cycle", heaven forbid! :P (click on the link for more)
After reading and hating The Blind Assassin a few years ago, I steered clear of Atwood for awhile, convinced I didn’t like her style. Then I read Oryx and Crake for a book group a couple of years ago and didn’t hate it. Since The Handmaid’s Tale is the book of hers that everyone always seems to suggest, I finally decided to read it thanks to the extra nudge from the Banned Book and O’Canada Challenges. And I’m glad I did as it was definitely worth the read. I’m sure the image of the handmaid will stay with me for some time. So while I’m still not convinced I love Atwood, I’m certainly more receptive to reading some of her other books in future.
My Rating: 3.5/5
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