My first experience with Margaret Atwood (Canadian) was the film of The Handmaid’s Tale in 1990, and more recently through a MasterClass.com lecture series and the remake in a series on Hulu (2017). It’s amazing the number of written works she’s produced; fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s stories (over 40 since 1961). Some publisher/instructors say to stay in the same genre book after book. I don’t agree, and I’m glad some authors feel the same way. The premise
of The Handmaid’s Tale is disturbing as it strips women of their rights. It’s told from Offred’s point-of-view.
I came across this book in a LittleFreeLibrary.com box in Wyoming. Frankly, I’ve been avoiding the novel for years. I grabbed it this time. The writing is beautiful; however, it took me a few chapters to get into the flow of the style, which is not an uncommon phenomenon for many readers. The women in the Republic of Gilead have a dystopian life in 2195, but not an unexpected outcome in a world ruined by humans, many of which are sterile. The population must be saved. However, the forcible way the community leaders deals with the problem is a perversion of what it might be like to live in a nunnery decade prior. In this story, the handmaids get taken away from their normal lives by the government and live under strict rules. They are not permitted to read or write, must take on a new name, and shed off their previous lives. Leaving loved ones completely behind. Fear of disobedience becomes their master. They are subject to the whims of the Commander. Procreation with a man is for the sake of rebuilding society, not for love. It’s a very strange story, yet captivating in its oddity. One chapter, with a contrasting flamboyant style, reminded me of a segment of a more recent book; The Hunger Games. I look forward to seeing what happens next in The Testaments because The Handmaid’s Tale left me wondering. I am glad I read it for the first time now since Atwood’s second book, The Testaments, was only recently released (Sept. 2019).