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...
(Description from back of books)
Hitting twenty-five this year, the Handmaid’s Tale remains one of the pinnacles of dystopian and feminist fiction and is perhaps one of the most conflicting books a person will ever read. At one moment, the reader will be marveling at the beauty of the complex language that Atwood uses to paint her picture, while at the same time is disgusted at the widespread rape and enslavement of the women in the novel.
Offred’s voice, though she fails to relay to us her name until partway through the novel, is serious but controlled. She is fully aware of her situation, who wouldn’t be?, while at the same time maintaining a calm and composed voice. Though we see very little of the inner worlds of the other characters until deep into the story, they provide complex and detailed platforms through which we get to understand Offred better.
The nice thing about the plot for this book is how, though we jump into a day in Offred’s life upon the first page, through a detailed and meticulous plot are we given glimpses into how much freedom she has, little, and how much she remembers about her past life, which is enough to make the reader realize just how chilling the time Offred finds herself in is.A compelling story with one of the greatest cliffhanger endings that I have read, The Handmaid’s Tale is a staple of dystopian fiction that has earned its place through beautifully crafted language and a fascinating main character.
(Amazon - Goodreads)
(Reviewed for Dystopian August 2011)