I read The Handmaid's Tale earlier this year and it quickly became an all-time favourite. That said, I never blogged about it for the simple reason that I didn't believe myself eloquent or articulate enough to coherently explain my thoughts about the book. Right now, I still don't think I can fluently communicate my feelings for it, but – after picking it up for a reread – I thought I might as well give it a go. I mean, in short: it's one of the best books I've ever read.
So, why is The Handmaid's Tale so incredible? To be honest, there's no simple answer. As you probably know, there's always a sense of irony surrounding the best books: words can't do them justice. And The Handmaid's Tale is just like that – any attempt to praise it turns out a clumsy mush of injustice. Yet, like I said, I'm going to give it a go…
So, where to begin? In case you don't know what the book's about, here's the synopsis: "Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…"
It's speculative future surrounding a future where women have no rights – interesting, right? And that's one of the best aspects of the novel: it's incredibly thought-provoking. Not only this, but Atwood has this capacity within her writing for displaying beauty against the ugliest of backdrops. The Republic of Gilead is writhing with misogyny, yet the handmaids act as vessels packed of human hopes and dreams. In a way, the book is beautiful… although not in the generic sense at all.
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.We lived in the gaps between the stories.”
Atwood also has a flair for detail. Take any element in the book and it'll hold a deeper meaning; for example, Offred's name: it shows she's 'property' of her owner – "of Fred". If, like me, you love to look beyond the words, The Handmaid's Tale will be perfect for you.
The characters, the themes, the concept, the plot… Atwood has left her mark on each aspect of this book. It takes a special kind of being to write a book like The Handmaid's Tale, and Atwood is such a being – a one-of-a-kind author.
My musings about this book have been fairly broken, I'll admit, but I didn't want to analyse it or anything of the sort. I just wanted to show you this book is both simultaneously terrifying and compelling & it deserves all the reads it can get. It's one of those novels everyone has to pick up at some point.
Bookish Musings are unedited rambles about certain books – often books I love dearly. Sometimes the posts have a point, sometimes the posts don't have a point till the very end, sometimes there's no point at all… but I don't know till I've finished writing it.*The edition featured throughout this post is the Folio edition*