Book Review – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Okay, listen. I don’t think I have any type of authority to actual REVIEW this book. It’s so iconic that I can’t do it justice. But I did want to say a few things about it for people who (LIKE ME) didn’t read it until they were adults. So anyway. Without further ado, here is my “review” of the infamous Margaret Atwood novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

Do I really even need to put a synopsis here? Okay, so. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred tells the story as a sort of diary, detailing her life in Gilead, which is a post-apocalyptic western country. Men are in charge, and they have wives, but the wives don’t bear children, and they aren’t required to actually have relations with their husbands if they don’t want. That’s my understanding, at least – I listened to the audiobook while I was cleaning and doing housework, so some of the details got a little lost, but that’s what I understood. Anyway, handmaids are basically sex slaves. They don’t even have names. Offred is Of-Fred, because she’s Fred’s. Anyway. That’s what we’re dealing with here. And any type of rebellion by the handmaid’s had been shot right down in the past, so Offred and all of the others were terrified to do anything that wasn’t allowed. So yeah, that’s where this book stands.

Also of note – I’ve been terrified to watch the Hulu series, but I know I should. So I won’t be mentioning that at all in this review.


3 Things I Loved

Can I even say I loved a single thing about this book?

  1. The narration. I listened on audio, and the book was narrated by Clare Danes, who did an absolutely fantastic job. Whether you’ve already read the book or not, if you want a great audio experience, listen to this audiobook version with Clare Danes. She has such a great voice for this book.
  2. The writing. Margaret Atwood is a genius. It’s sparse, and we’re missing pieces, but it’s enough to tell the story, and it’s more than enough to keep readers interested.
  3. What it means now. So the thing about this book is that it’s had a resurgence recently, both because of the Hulu series (that I haven’t seen) and because of the way the current administration is legislating women’s bodies. Handmaids – people in the costume of the handmaids, that is – have been showing up at protests for the last several years. And I find that type of lasting power of a book to be spectacular.

Dislikes/Problematic Content

First, I’m not going to go into triggers here. Because the whole book is a trigger for women. Sex slaves. Coat hanger abortions. Forced procreation where you’re not allowed to raise your own child. A world where women are so second class that they don’t even have names. LISTEN. This whole book triggered me. I was absolutely terrified and that’s why I haven’t watched the Hulu series yet.

As for dislikes? The whole book? But like, I disliked the world that Atwood created in concept, because the writing was superb. Am I making sense?

The thing about The Handmaid’s Tale is that it isn’t all that unbelievable. The truth doesn’t need to be suspended much for this story to make sense. That’s why it’s so scary. Other post-apocalyptic stories are a little more fantastical – The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. – sure, they COULD happen, but a LOT would need to go wrong to get there. The world that Atwood created in The Handmaid’s Tale happened slowly, with small legislative decisions that eventually piled on top of each other until women were property. That’s terrifying. I hate even thinking about it.

It’s like Atwood wrote one of my nightmares.


Rating

A reminder of the rating scale:

  • Red = DNF, I hated everything
  • Orange = Ugh, no thank you
  • Yellow = I mean, I’ve read worse, but there were problems
  • Green = This was good! 
  • Blue = Oh my gosh, I loved this book!
  • Purple = This is the unicorn of books and I will be rereading it until the binding falls apart and EVERYONE should be reading it!

Rating this book is going to be very difficult. I think everyone should read it. But I also don’t think I’ll ever be able to reread it. So I’m stuck with this book that everyone should need to sit with, like I have been, but I can’t in good conscience say that I’m going to reread it, because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to. So. With that in mind, I’m giving The Handmaid’s Tale a BLUE rating. I didn’t love it. But I think it needs to be rated that high because the craft was excellent and everyone should read it, especially if you’re living in the United States right now.

I guess I’m just continuing my spooky season books this week! Happy reading!

2 Comments

  1. I totally get what you mean about you liking the writing but not liking the actual book because of the content and what happens in it. That’s how I felt about certain books too, so I totally get that. I’m really nervous about reading this book or watching the show though. Like, people are so into it because it’s great, but sometimes I think people forget that this kind of world isn’t too far away from our reality like you mentioned. That’s the scary part for me, is that little changes like those legislative laws or motions being passed, that end up compiling until women just can’t do shit anymore. I feel like we are so, so, so close to that and people see it in a show and go “wow that wouldn’t happen but it makes for great entertainment.” Great review Marie.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much! I totally agree, a lot of people can separate their entertainment from real life and I often can’t! If it’s too close, I don’t love it. Thanks for reading my review! ❤️

      Like

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