This was a book which I skirted around. I have seen it for a very long time on several blogs and blogs which I love (so you would think I would get to it faster) but somehow the words dystopian, sci fi, fantasy put me off. I read a synopsis of the book and got put off completely. It was for me bordering on eerie, maybe for me it was something that I really am frightened that "maybe could happen".
We have seen things in our lifetime which we would have thought unimaginable years ago and I may have thought this is also too weird to be even imaginable! After reading the umpteenth paen of praise for this book it almost fell into my hands on my search for books and I thought it was almost an omen that I had to read this book. I can only kick myself in the you know what for not getting to this earlier.
Despite the science fiction tone, the high degree of improbability (at times not so improbable also) I know this is a contradiction but it is so - it is a challenging read. It is also a book that you should not read in stages! Read it one go so that the enormity of this book hits you hard. Under an autocratic (read here dictatorship) the Gileads a fundamentalist Protestant group have taken over the world and women - women of child bearing age are forced into a sexual liaison with superior men in order to populate the world. The birth rate is almost zero mainly due to pollution and nuclear war.
Revolving around a Handmaiden one who has lived a "normal" life previously the story delves into human feelings and emotions, passion and jealousies which cannot be kept out despite all the stringent rules and regulations which abound. The story shows clearly how humans need to interact and laying down the law will not always work because people will react differently despite all the rules of how they should behave. Sexuality is a tool in this story, women are only there for child bearing (they cannot own property, they cannot write) (we have seen this happening today so it was no surprise for me here) and a creation of a superior race of children has Nazi overtones which also did happen. It was not fantasy.
After reading the book, I felt angry, sad, annoyed and fearful in turn. It could be science fiction, it could be whatever you may call it but it could happen and that is why it is disturbing. I dont think I could say I loved the book but I certainly am glad that I read it.
This is a powerful tale! Thought provoking and should be read.