The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.

– Opening sentence

I first read The Handmaid’s Tale when I was a teenager, but it didn’t leave much of a lasting impression. I think a lot if it went over my head; I was too young to fully comprehend it. So, after the release its much anticipated sequel, The Testaments, I decided to re-read The Handmaid’s Tale.

And I’m so glad I did.

I was blown away by how powerful it is, I can’t BELIEVE how much I had forgotten, and not appreciated, from my first reading (especially as I love the dystopia genre, and The Handmaid’s Tale is definitely dystopian in its theme).

Devastatingly sad, The Handmaid’s Tale follows the story of a women known as Offred. This name has been given to her as she is the property of her commander; we never discover her true name. Offred was a normal woman before the assassination of the president, and the suspension of the constitution. She had a child, also nameless, and a partner called Luke, before she was forced into the role of a handmaid.

Many of you probably know the story – there’s been a popular adaption on Netflix (which I haven’t seen), and the book has been hugely popular in the feminist movement for its not-too-unrealistic portrayal of patriarchalism in its most extreme form.

But for those who don’t know, in a world where birth rates are in decline, a handmaid’s sole purpose is to conceive and deliver a healthy baby for the commander and his wife who she serves. Her alternative is to work in one of the many colonies, cleaning up toxic and radioactive waste, without protection. It’s not really a choice at all.

The Handmaid’s Tale is Offred’s story through the transition from independence to imprisonment. Her memories are painful, and she struggles against her will to survive and the reality of being stripped of everything she once was. It’s completely heart-wrenching and bleak, but also morbidly fascinating; its not entirely unbelievable given our current political position. I think that’s why it’s become a modern classic. It’s Orwellian in nature.

I’m now excited to get started on The Testaments, as there are so many unanswered questions from The Handmaid’s Tale that I’d like to address, like, what happened next, and long did it last? Hopefully the sequel will live up to the high standards set by the first.

5 Stars (5 / 5)

Are they any questions?

– Final sentence


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