Hello there, bookworms! It’s been a few days, yet again! There were two main reasons for that. One, I caught some kind of bug which had me down and out for a chunk of last week, and two, because my latest read left me slightly uneasy and I wanted to process it before I brought you guys a review.
Anyway, it’s perfect timing to be discussing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood tonight because the show is premiering on Hulu tomorrow (I’ll link a trailer at the end of this review).
I’ve always seen this book among articles of banned and controversial, but I never knew much about it, other than it was a classic piece. I was confused as to how with all my years in school, studying literature, this title never popped up on a syllabus. Having since picking up a copy a few weeks ago and spending time in Gilead with the handmaid’s, I no longer have to wonder why I was kept in the dark for so long.
As a woman, I can’t help but try to plead with the ladies in the audience the importance of reading stories like this one, especially given current events in societies around the world. I can say that yes, you will feel uncomfortable during this journey, but you’ll also see parallels to current events, that I hope, hit home and help you realize that you can take a stand for your future. I can’t help but get slightly political with this story, because there is quite a focus as you turn the pages, but this is still a thrilling and scary read regardless of your stance.
The American government has been slaughtered by a strict religious order. It is now known as The Republic of Gilead. In their takeover, women have become a major target. They’re no longer allowed to read, get an education, hold a job, property, or obtain income. Instead, they are housed together under the supervision of Aunts, a Commander, and his wife. They can cook, pray, run basic errands, and, oh yeah, pop out babies.
We get a taste of Gilead, through the eyes of Offred, our main handmaid. While she’s existing and attempting survival in her new life, she gives us readers clips of what happened before. Her memory is a bit vague, but she has recollections of her life when she was a working woman. A working woman with a family. She was raised by a single mom, who was a women’s rights activist, and had a best friend named Moira, a rebellious lesbian. She also had a husband named Luke, and together, they had a daughter. When the government caused her to lose her job, and her financial assets were frozen, the little family tried to escape to the border. However, they were caught and separated. Offred is taken to a re-education center and taught about her new life and vocation.
The world she is living in now is dangerous. There are eyes everywhere, but there are spies as well. Offred and the rest of the Handmaids must tread carefully. Her Aunts are wary of her, her Commander (Fred) seems to value her company, and the wife (Serena) sees her as an incubator. Just a tool, since she is barren. Offred is a quiet observer, and keeps her opinion for us, or her close friend, Ofglen. Speaking out against the injustices of society will only result in punishment. There are bodies hanging at the city wall as a reminder of where defiance leads on a daily basis.
There is one glimmer of hope in the world of despair these women are living in, and that’s the underground rebellion known as the Mayday. Moira, who has escaped her life as a handmaid, is part of this organization, and with the group, they’re planning to overthrow the government and take back control.
Offred doesn’t know which decision is the best to make. Her commander has taken secret meetings with her and has become a confidant of sorts. They play board games, and he teaches her how to read and write, which is forbidden for her in this society. She also has Serena feeding her information about her long lost daughter, and persuading her to have an affair with the gardener, Nick, since she can’t seem to get pregnant by the commander. She is cautious, but she agrees to the terms Serena offers her in order to find out about her missing child.
The affair with Nick becomes Offred’s form of sanity. It keeps her grounded and comforted, until….
Until the handmaids are called upon to kill an alleged rapist, who they find out later, was part of the mayday organization. In the paranoia over the incidents, Ofglen commits suicide when there’s talk of police rounding up sympathizers and people with information. When Offred returns home from a crazy day of death, she finds the police coming for her. Nick assures her to willingly go with the officers. He tells her they’re undercover mayday officers, but she isn’t sure if it’s true or if it’s her time to die.
The story ends with a section of Historical Notes where we find a teacher discussing the history of Gilead and the tale of the handmaids. He’s also doing everything he can to try to discredit Offred’s story, which is how Gilead came to be in the first place.
This story is intense, but exceedingly important. I highly suggest giving it a go if you haven’t already, and enjoy the premiere of the show tomorrow. I’m interested to know what you guys think!
Much like the fate of this story, the fate of this world, and your future… is up to you.