Monday, June 5, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's TaleThis book was utterly terrifying.

The Handmaid's Tale is the story of Offred, a Handmaid in a country called Gilead that has taken over at least part of the United States and, with heavy religious overtones, regulates all relations between men and women, as well as between women and women.  They justify it as saving the human race after some nuclear-type apocalypse hinted at in a few places caused birthrates to spiral downward and birth defects to shoot up.  Really, this isn't such a wild premise for a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel...except it shows that most terrifying of all things: the slide.

This book takes place with the Gilead regime in full swing, but Offred grew up and had a life, a husband, a child before it started.  So she remembers the slide from normalcy to what is the "new" normal, where fake news is used to control the populace, women are the property of  men, abortion is illegal, and Gilead is against the rest of the world.  And to me, that is the most terrifying thing of all: seeing how all these small steps can add up to such a huge difference, how each thing can be taken in stride, until the next generation won't remember what life was like before Gilead at all.  That next generation of girls will think life has always been the way it has.

Following the main narrative here, there's a section of "historical notes" which I originally intended to skip over, but I'm glad that I didn't.  It's actually a part of the larger story, giving some context and some closure to a few of the "holes" in the main narrative.  Atwood left a few things up to the imagination, such as what ultimately happens to Offred, but also gives some insight into the larger events that that surrounded her in Gilead.  It also hammers home the terrifying aspects as well, because it shows how the rest of the world wasn't really affected by the events in Gilead, and just turned their backs on the plights of the people there.  This is pretty much the case in most dystopian novels: one region goes crazy, and the rest of the world just backs away.  But for some reason it just feels so much more real in this book than in others.

This book is, of course, airing as a television adaptation on Hulu now, but it's really more striking than that because of the political times we live in.  It's a truly horrifying read because this book makes it so easy to see how things could go so wrong.

5 stars out of 5; an important book, I think, especially now.

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