The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Norwegian title: Tjenerinnens beretning

Hello everyone!

Finally I came around to this book! I recevied The Testament from Aschehoug Publishing House back when it came out so I had to read the first one ASAP the library got it back in, and I have to say, what a reading journey! I believe I did the mistake, unknowingly, of reading the book as a story and nothing more, therefore I hope to bring some extra thoughts to this review instead of just giving you my opinion of the book as I normally would do. The synopsis is borrowed from Goodreads:

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

I think it is the first time I’ve ever said this but I’m actually very happy that I’ve seen the TV series before I’ve read the book. I never finished The Handmaid’s Tale on HBO but I watched long enough, before I fell off, to get the whole story from the book. I think that if I hadn’t watched the TV series I wouldn’t have enjoyed the book as much as I did. Here is why: The Handmaid’s Tale is my kind of book because it has an intriguing story, fascinating aspects, and it’s set in a futuristic, alternative universe that presents an interesting re-perspective on the world we live in today. Atwood presents the setting around Offred as something that really could have happened. People are crazy enough to try something like it that’s for sure. I believe the story that Atwood is telling me and I tried to wrap my head around the fact of Offred going from being a free woman to an enslaved woman. This was a difficult thing to envision because I’m so used to being free myself that the thought of having everything taken from me because I’m a woman seems very strange. However, we know from history that this, although Atwood in this story brings it towards the extreme (concerning the Biblical interpretation), has been many women’s fate and used to be their daily life. We know that women all over the world suffers from oppression either by husbands, family or society. I heard many years ago someone say that they were born in the wrong time period because there was nothing left to fight for. I thought about this when I read this story and I thought that whoever said this are wrong. There is plenty left to fight for or help others fight their battles if they can’t fight it themselves, and I believe that stories like The Handmaid’s Tale can be an inspiration for both young and old to be grateful for what we have, and what we might be able to do in order to help out others (women, children, men, animals) who doesn’t have the luxury of freedom like ourselves.

The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t my kind of book because it is presented in a somewhat loose diary form. If you’ve read my blog for a while you know that I can’t stand diaries….It’s something about the writing style that just throws me off. Atwood has managed to keep me within her pages and keeping me engaged even though the book has this dreamy and longing aspect to it. I believe that it is the alterations between Offred’s conversations with people and her own thoughts and throwbacks to the past that makes this book more of my type of diary ish read. In her throwbacks Offred shows us some of the world she used to know and that many of us know today. I think this is a genius stroke of penwomanship from Atwood because by doing this she keeps her readers engaged by giving them something familiar in a story that seems utterly bizarre to be honest. She also uses this technique elsewhere in the story but I won’t spoil that. I must say that I would have HATED the ending of the book if I didn’t know there was another one. That way of ending a book is not cool Atwood…I can’t imagine how people who read this book when it first came out back in 1985 could wait as long as 34 years before finding out how it went. I wouldn’t have been happy at all but luckily I don’t have to worry about it! Another thing that really bothered me was that the Norwegian translation had several misspellings and missing words. It wasn’t hard to figure out what it should have been but it disrupted my readingflow non the less. It’s ok if it’s just a few and it’s not reoccurring but in this book there was too many to ignore.

Shortly on characters before this review gets longer than the Equator. I find Offred to be a very interesting character although my favorite is Moria. She has such spunk although the society does everything in their power to make her life miserable. In many ways I feel like she inspires Offred as well as keeping her in line. Throughout the book we get to see many sides of both Moria and Offred and they compliment each other which is lovely to see. I won’t go in too much detail because that would spoil half your fun by reading this book and I believe that I’ve already spoiled quite enough compared to my normal standard…

The Handmaid’s Tale is a book that engages your mind and churn your thoughts. It’s not a book filled with action but at the same time the action hides within the normality of the unfamiliar scenes in the story. Offred pose for a great main character and I’m eager to see if I can learn more about her in the next book, The Testaments! I would recommend it to older adolescents and above due to a few scenes but that will always be individual. I believe this is a good book for both men and women to read due to that many of the aspects in this book can be related to both genders if you sit down and think about it. Shortly said: It’s a book everyone should read.

Published: 1985

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Feminism, alternative society, oppression

– The Book Reader


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