the handmaid's tale - margaret atwood

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Blurb: "The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed . If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. . . . ."

If I had to sum up a description of The Handmaid's Tale in one word, I would probably choose 'terrifying'.

In Gilead, religious fundamentalists have taken over the Government and implemented an oppressive regime based on chilling Puritan and Christian values. Any woman capable of bearing children has been forced to choose between two depressing scenarios. Become a handmaid/surrogate mother for a childless couple who are in a position of power or be sent to the Colonies to clean up radioactive waste/dead bodies and die a slow and painful death. If you choose the Handmaid option, you will adhere to a 'three strikes and you're out' rule, implying that if you fail to conceive a healthy baby (any with deformities etc are 'shredded' under the regime) in three postings, then you will be sent to the Colonies as punishment.

The Handmaid's Tale is told from the point of view of Offred (all handmaids must take the name of their Commander, individual names are simply erased and no longer used) as she goes through the motions of this enforced misery with irony, wit and a desperation to survive.

This is one of my favourite books and one that I feel everyone should read at some point. It is frighetningly realistic and relevant, a grim warning of a future that doesn't seem so far away. 10/10

P.S: A useful guide to read afterwards is the York Notes Advanced , which offers additional insight and brilliant suggestions for further reading.
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