Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Page Count/Review Word Count: 324
This one is a serious contender for my book of the year so far and I can’t believe it took me this long to read it. As dystopian novels go, this is up there with 1984, and I personally preferred it. That’s quite the statement to make, especially when you consider that I’m an Orwell fan.
There are only three minor quibbles that I had with it. The first is that Atwood gets overzealous with commas and likes to use them, in weird places. A bit like that. The second is that the novel itself had the perfect ambiguous ending which was then immediately watered down by the “Historical Notes on The Handmaid’s Tale” at the end which basically removes the ambiguity of the first ending and sets up a second, slightly weaker ambiguous ending. And the third is that in the end, Offred basically gets brought down because she gets involved with a man. I was hoping all the way through that she’d have more common sense than that, but she didn’t.
Other than that, though, it’s an insightful dystopian novel which examines themes of sexuality, gender and feminism, but not in a way that will push you away if you’re a dude. Actually, the men in the book aren’t exactly in the best of situations, although they are admittedly better off than the women. But the historical stuff that happened which led up to the events of the novel feels plausible, and I can’t help but wonder how much inspiration Atwood found in the Nazi and Soviet regimes. Having just got back from Latvia, which was devastated by years of German and Russian oppression, it really hit close to the bone.
All in all, then, everyone should read this book, if only because it’s a warning. We’re lucky it’s just a story.