“As all historians know, the past is a great darkness and filled with echoes,”
This book is a dystopian fiction about a post apocalyptic society where fertile women become “handmaids” and are forced to reproduce for powerful Commanders and their families.
The story itself is told from the point of view of Offred, a handmaiden. The perspective shows how fallible personal perspective is and this worked well in the book’s favour. In the same way, the lack of speech quotations didn’t throw me because the narrative was fully formed on its own merits and I expected it, given that it was from Offred’s point of view anyway.
An ever present feeling of dread pervades the book, where women are valued only if they possess working ovaries. Loyalties are nonexistent, and the Handmaid’s themselves are expendable after they have served their reproductive purpose. Dystopia isn’t always robots and flying cars.
While certainly a book of its time, Atwood’s book serves as a chilling portent of the future. A criticism of the book was the floweriness of the language. While this was true, it wasn’t distracting enough to put me off reading the book itself. If anything this just made the experience of reading the book all the more of a sensory experience.
I liked that the story included a Gilead history because this placed Offred’s world in a fictionalised context and invites readers to contemplate the ultimate fates of characters within the story itself. While I did enjoyed reading this book,I don’t think it’s one I could return to regularly as it’s too much of a misery chronicle to be satisfying if I were to read it a second time. That being said, I still feel it is a book that everyone should at least be aware of in their fictional arsenal.
MY RATING: **** / *****