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The Handmaid's Tale

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

I made the fatal mistake of watching the show before I read this book. If there is only one thing you get from reading this blog, it is that you should ALWAYS read the book before the movie. I have never heard anyone say they liked the book less. Because of this sad fact, there are some parts of the show that I associate with the novel, even though Atwood didn’t write them. That’s okay, of course, it just makes it a bit harder to write this review in a clear frame of mind. I digress. This book was the first Margaret Atwood book I ever read, and it did not disappoint. She writes about sometime in the distant future, after America is taken over by a group of ultraconservative Christians. The environment has gone to pieces and the fertility rate is almost zero. The government decides to totally reform society into a system called Gilead where women are completely oppressed and placed into soley domestic roles while men get all the power. It is filled with pages of oppression and control while simultaneously demonstrating how a strong woman fought against her surroundings. Atwood’s professional prose puts you right inside the novel next to Offred, the named but unnamed main character. You will rejoice with her in every moment of happiness, tremble with her in suspense, and feel every second of grief and emptiness. These last two emotions are caught so provocatively in this novel, which makes me question her intention in writing it. We know, as she has said in interviews, that she didn't put anything in this novel that didn’t have backing in some other historical event. To take that information, along with the dreariness that encompasses THT, it is clear to see that she wrote this book as a warning. She sees what we could be heading for in the future, so she wants to prevent it from happening to future generations. SPOILER ALERT AHEAD: In the last pages of the book, however, there is something included so subtly that you might accidentally skip it, thinking it's not a part of the novel. In a very 1984-esque manner (which I will also review), Atwood writes in a conference during which historians look back on the Gilead period and talk about occurrences in the book as if they are things of the past. This little tidbit is a tiny piece of hope. It shows that people such as Offred were able to succeed in their rebellion and fight to achieve a better future for their children and so on.

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