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Monday, September 27, 2010

Review - The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood



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.

14 comments:

She Means Well... said...

I was looking forward to your review of this, seeing as I have read and re-read this particular book many times!

And remember, the best science fiction is thinly veiled social comment.

Mandi.

Suko said...

Great review! I'd also like to read this, having read so much about it, including your review now. With so many book choices, it can be hard to zero in on any particular book in a staggering TBR pile. :)

Kathleen said...

It was already on my list to read but your review makes me want to move it up into my queue sooner, rather than later.

MarthaE said...

Hi Mystica. Your review makes this book sound intriguing. I will have to add it to my wish list. Have a great week.

Nicola said...

I need to read this again. I read when I was a teenager. The one thing I don't like, that makes the book impossible to accept as believable is that (athiest) Atwood has chosen fundamentalist Christians as the bad guys here. Politically this type of Christian is usually right-wing which, today, means they want the end of big government telling people what to do with the minutia of life and support less government involvement in people's lives. They would never form a dictatorship.

chasingbawa said...

I read this as a student and it really shocked me because it was so believable. As I was never brought up to think my only purpose was to be a mother, it really frightened me. I'd also read Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World which both showed what society can descend into under an oppressive regime and the withholding of free will. I would be interested to hear your views on them.

Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I liked this one when I read it in January. Great review!!!

~*~ saskia ~*~ said...

Thank you for entering my giveaway, I threw your notes in the big bowl, fingers crossed for YOU!
Have a happy THursday xxx

Mystica said...

Thanks to all for the positive comments! This was a review that had me floored as it was not a "nice light read". It was a tough book to go through but am I glad I did.

TheBlackSheep said...

I read this one this year too. I also thought it was good, although I really differ with the general opinion about the meaning of it all. (my post is here http://blacksheepbooks.blogspot.com/2010/02/handmaids-tale-by-margaret-atwood.html if you're interested). It is a book I think people should read whatever view they take in the end. It's very thought provoking, regardless of how you look at it.

Cheryl said...

Great review. Please e-mail me at cherylbaryl@hotmail.com with your address and I will send "Think of a Number" to you since you were the first to respond. Thanks.

Lady Q said...

Wow, this sounds great, and so not what I was expecting based on the title and the cover. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, and thanks for visiting my Mailbox on Monday!

kaye said...

I see Molly at the Bumbles is having a chat about this book. Maybe I'd better look into it.

Anna said...

Great review! I definitely agree that it's both probable and improbable at the same time...and completely disturbing!