Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Handmaid's Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood
Year: 1986
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin  Company

The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel (no surprise I'm reading another one of those). The story is told in first person from the point of view of Offred (not her real name). Offred is a handmaid in a new society called the Republic of Gilead and lives somewhere around Bangor, Maine. In this society, women have no power and are possessions of men. Some women are Wives, some are Marthas, others, like Offred, are Handmaids. Their function in society comes from the story in the Bible where Rachel gives her maid to her husband, Jacob, so that he can have children by her. Offred is placed in the home of a high ranking Commander where she must hope that he can make her pregnant. If she is not able to have a baby, then she will either die or be made an Unwoman and shipped to the Colonies.

This society is new and the story is interspersed with stories from Offred's life before this happened - when she had a job, money, freedom, a husband and a daughter. She can remember what she's lost and, at times, can not decide whether she pities the younger girls who cannot remember a time before or if she thinks it is better that they don't remember.

I've heard about this story for a very long time. And it's always been good reviews and high praise for The Handmaid's Tale. I must agree that it is a very well-written and captivating book. My biggest complaint is that I didn't feel completely connected with Offred and I wanted just a little more. I don't know if I was looking for more emotion, more story, more background, more conclusion. I just felt like there was a little something missing. Don't misunderstand, I thought this was a terrific book. There was just a little something missing for me.


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