The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I adore this cover for The Handmaid’s Tale. The body as living vessel, growing, but struggling to grow beyond itself.

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The Handmaid’s Tale is a hard book to review. Partly because it seems like it is harder to review books I enjoy. When I dislike a book I have tons to write about and when I like a book I have tons to talk about with friends, but it can be harder to articulate in a blog post because there is less back and forth. So let me know how you feel about this post in the comments. Let’s talk books.

I’ll just begin with the fact that this is a book I finished reading then immediately started reading again. It’s so well-written. The prose gets in your head and makes your thoughts spin with its almost lyrical style. My copy is underline and annotated because so many lines whispered my name.

This is one of the books that made me want to write again. I loved the way Atwood would focus so intensely on a single phrase that her/ Offred’s thoughts would fill up the page. It reminded me of my notebooks where I start out thinking about a phrase and then I think about all of its implications and the ways it can be twisted or changed. This book was like a spool of thoughts ever connecting one to the other. Maybe that’s not something you like, but I loved it.

The plot is terrifying and believable. It’s difficult because in some ways things were better for women, or at least they started out that way. Offred’s experience is sort of a philosophical imagining of what would happen if we tried to stop the crimes that happen to women and the solution went horribly wrong.

Viewing it philosophically it can be anti-men. By this I mean that men are literally the enemy and the salvation in this book. Obviously, if I read this as a story where all of this has actually happened then the views toward men are understandable and justifiable. However, I have run into people who act as though this is literally happening and men are forcing women into these types of roles. While some men are, and particularly men in some other countries are, this is not happening on a broad scale in the US and most other developed countries. There are absolutely still gender issues, but women are not literal breeding vessels who aren’t allowed to read at least in most developed countries. But again reading this as a story does bring up a certain amount of fear and outrage regarding the past, present, and future of gender equality. I suppose I just want people to remember that this is a story with some major philosophical merit, but it is not a nonfiction story.

I wish I knew Offred’s real name. Some people think it is June, and there is some evidence to support that. However, Atwood has discredited this as she said it was not her intention for her to be named June, but that she would accept it. I want to know her REAL name.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the introspective side of fiction and to anyone who enjoys a good dystopia.

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