The lovely Faith who has been with us on work experience for the past two weeks has a Recommended Read to share, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”
The Handmaid’s Tale takes places in a near-future, dystopian America (now the Republic of Gilead), where a Christian fundamentalist group has taken control of the country. The story focuses around Offred, a ‘Handmaid’; the Handmaids are a group of women who can still have healthy children, so are therefore kept by upper-class couples for breeding purposes. The story focuses on her life as a Handmaid, as well as flashbacks to her life before the uprising.
Offred is an interesting character for this genre; a dystopian typically focuses on a hero, a rebel with a cause who wants to take down the evil hierarchy. However Offred is just a normal person thrown into this horrible world, and all she can realistically do is make the most of it and resent in silence. In this way Atwood allows the reader to relate to the story through Offred, and shows how political disasters affect normal people.
I chose this book for my Recommended Read because not only do I think it is beautifully written, but also so current for the world we live in today. When looking at the bizarre politics of the world over recent years, dystopian novels like The Handmaid’s Tale feel so frighteningly real. It really makes you think about hierarchies, feminist ideals, and society as a whole. Likewise it is an enjoyable read! The story really grips you right from the start, and keeps you by slowly revealing the truths and the background of the world Offred lives in.
Overall, The Handmaid’s Tale is a wonderfully written book, taking an absolutely terrifying situation and making it normal. It is an insight into the characteristics of humans; how in situations such as these, all people can do is adapt to survive. This is a novel which is rapidly becoming a personal favourite.
“Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it really isn’t about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.”