The Handmaid's Tale
By Margaret Atwood
‘I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.’
Offred is a Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. She is placed in the household of The Commander, Fred Waterford – her assigned name, Offred, means ‘of Fred’. She has only one function: to breed. If Offred refuses to enter into sexual servitude to repopulate a devastated world, she will be hanged. Yet even a repressive state cannot eradicate hope and desire. As she recalls her pre-revolution life in flashbacks, Offred must navigate through the terrifying landscape of torture and persecution in the present day, and between two men upon which her future hangs.
Masterfully conceived and executed, this haunting vision of the future places Margaret Atwood at the forefront of dystopian fiction.Tweet
Resources for this book
We first talked about the epigraphs at the front of the book. We liked how the author had used real life examples as it made what happened in the book so much more realistic.
We all found that Moira is a really strong character within the book. We all wondered whether we would be as strong as she was throughout. It's one of the situations you really don't know how you'll react until you're forced into it. Would we have fought the system or just gone along with it as each of the elements was just so swiftly brought in. We thought we would just be in disbelief that our liberties could be removed to easily, it was terrifying and actually a little more realistic now than when it was written we thought.
We all felt that Aunt Lydia was a hideous character, but she did come across as slightly one dimensional. It might have been interesting to see from her point of view to see why she behaved the way she did. There might have been a reason we could understand? We also felt that the Commander was incredibly creepy in the things he does to Offred, a thoroughly unpleasant man. He would most probably have been exactly the same way even if the world hadn't been changed the way it had. Both these characters (along with others) were just allowing their base instincts to come out and the system they were in allowed them to do whatever they wanted to other human beings.
The ending of the book brought a whole new aspect to the whole story. I won't spoilt the book by saying what but it really does open your eyes to how this situation came about and how the book was created by the characters within it.
We had a larger debate about the #MeToo movement, abortions in different countries, being subjugated in other countries etc. Lots of different things to spring off from this book.
Overall we gave this book 8 out of 10. We can't wait to go on and read The Testaments in our own time.
The Blackheath library reading group were given copies of 'the Handmaid's tale ' to read and review. This is our collective review:
I first read the book when it first came out in 1985 and i really liked it then. Revisiting it years later i really engaged with the book and noticed things that as a 21 year old i didn't notice.
Some of the book is dated yet it still works and i was easily caught up in the story.
Really excellent read - i liked the writing style and the open ending.
I was so engrossed in the book that i was disappointed that the book ended on a cliffhanger. I have been watching the TV series but now feel the book is much better.
I read this for A level and never really got into it. But re-reading it i really enjoyed it. It was very atmospheric with a real sense of dread running though that kept me reading.
Beautifully written and very relevant suddenly the shocking world and the life of Offred seems to be far more believable.
I orginally read this when it first came out , but couldn't really remember much about it ! i was not disappointed it was a really good read with lots to think about. I liked the way we never really know who can be trusted - this really set the scene. Now looking forward to the next book
Macclesfield Library Book Group received these books from the Reading Agency for free in exchange for reviews - here are our thoughts:
• ‘very well-written and very frightening since it shows what could very easily happen today with all that is going on today and around the world’
• ‘A great read. I really enjoyed the writing, the content, the characters and the story. A bleak read that shocked in places. Interestingly it is the first book in a very long time that all members enjoyed!’
• ‘the most amazing book I have read for many years – beautifully written, chilling and compulsive reading’
• ‘still as good as when I read it 30 years ago. Wonderfully written! I am looking forward to The Testaments’
• ‘a rather bleak dystopian vision but fantastically written and realised, very believable and hopefully not prescient’
• ‘a brilliant well written novel, very poignant as to what’s going on in the world today’
• ‘this is one of my favourite books – it was a pleasure to re-read in the context of book group and discuss the different themes and different viewpoints with the group. For such a horrible subject matter the book is beautifully written. The book is still shocking to read even 30 years after it’s publication – it is even more shocking in the context of what is going on today In the world.’
Thank you so much for the chance to read this book!
I found this book to be very powerful. It's clear that Atwood's intention was to warn the reader of the possibilities of a patriarchal society and what it could entail, even though she has portrayed this to an extreme extent. The underlying message is brought by the protagonist Offered who gives us a first hand account of the subjugation of women during a revolution within their society. Offered is an extremely relatable character, which in turn aids Atwood in her message to illustrate the lack of feminist activism within our society. This is a timeless novel that will continue to share Atwood's powerful message.
I would recommend that everyone makes time to consume Atwood's talent and while taking in a hard lesson from the fantastic lead character Offred. This is a novel that will have your mind racing and your hands unable to put it down. If you've enjoyed novels such as '1984' or 'Brave New World' then this is another dystopian classic to get your hands on.
The best novel I've ever read - finished it in a day!
The mix of dystopian future with old-age morals, and prominent feminist themes, meant this story appealed to every interest of mine.
It isn't a long read, and is relatively simple in terms of chronology and language. The themes are what makes this novel so complex and interesting.
I would recommend to anyone, to make them reconsider the values we award individuals in our society.