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…
The Handmaid’s Tale is a disturbing and oh so memorable story. It’s one of those books, after you have finished reading it, that will pop into your mind weeks, months and even years later. The premise of the story itself is what makes it so distinct. As a woman especially, reading this story was so chilling, sometimes it almost made me shudder to imagine the Republic of Gilead.
What makes the story so powerfully creepy and alarming is the realistic and believable way in which Atwood sells it to us. When we eventually learn about the conception of Gilead, how it came into existence and how it is maintained, that is when we realise it is so very possible and so realistic.
Atwood’s world building was so well thought out and nothing ever felt implausible or forced. Every detail and aspect of life had been considered. I also liked the way it wasn’t all dumped on the reader and explained in an opening. We only learnt in trickles, in dribs and drabs throughout Offred’s story. Reflecting on her memories and discovering new pieces of information is how the reader comes to understand more about Gilead and how each and every person in that society lives.
I really loved Atwood’s writing style. It was somewhat disjointed and a little jarring at times but that made it even more believable. Our narrator, Offred, is trying to assimilate to the life that is forced upon her whilst she is grieving for everything about the life she lost. As her story progresses and we learn more about Offred herself, it becomes clearer why she narrates in the way that she does.
I have always wanted and meant to read a novel by Margaret Atwood and I finally bought this book a couple of months ago. This was such a notable story and I think a must read for everyone. Although it is somewhat disturbing, it raises so many important issues and makes the reader think about things that need to be thought about. I can’t wait to read more novels by Atwood. Also, I want to start watching the TV series based on this book!