review: The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood is an author I kept hearing about but never thought I would enjoy – I’m not sure what I was expecting but THE HANDMAID’S TALE broke expectations completely. Here’s my review.

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THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

TITLE [4/5] I keep wanting to mistype the title as The Handmaiden’s Tale and I have no idea why. Tale implies a more traditional fantasy or historical setting, which I find interesting as behind it hides a strong, shocking contemporary.

COVER [4/5] To some extent I like the cover, but I still have mixed opinions. Perhaps rows of figures with their faces scratched out would have been more meaningful – although I like that the Handmaid’s outfit is on the cover because at times it is hard to visualise on it’s own.

PLOT [4/5] I’ve seen people complain that nothing seems to happen by the end of the novel – events occur but the ending is rather abrupt. However, I kind of like it. It’s real, and even if certain events are never tied up completely, for once I don’t mind too much.

CHARACTERS [4/5] Offred. It took me awhile to work out the reason for her ‘name’ – Of Fred. If you’re looking for an example of drastic, world changing character development then this is not the book for you. However, if you’re looking for a social commentary on society, or even just a very good, very different, book – I think you’ll be happy regardless. There are many characters who all have their own motivations, their own reasons for their own actions. Moira in particular was an interesting character as a parallel to Offred.

OVERALL [4/5] The writing style is poetical and hard hitting, and I can definitely see why there are some who don’t like it – but, for me, it was a great surprise. I think this is definitely a book to reread and pick up everything I missed the first time around, because I feel like the fast-pace meant I was skimming some paragraphs while caught up in the action. I have to say, THE HANDMAID’S TALE is nothing like what I expected from a Margaret Atwood – but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s the sort of novel you have to be in the right mood for, but definitely enjoyable if you are..

I’m trialling rating each aspect out of five as well as an overall out of five rating – what do you guys think? Thank you to everyone who participated in the OPINION POLL post – your feedback is invaluable in helping me become a better blogger. To those who haven’t voted yet, voting will remain open for at least another month.

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15 thoughts on “review: The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. Canary says:

    Talk about a hard-hitting book! I just read The Handmaid’s Tale last month for the very first time, and it made me realize how much genre drift I’ve seen in YA Dystopia novels. Compared to classics like Handmaid’s Tale and 1984, they’re not dystopian at all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • novellique says:

      I agree – a lot of dystopia don’t get down the detail and depth that novels like The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 do. I think my favourite YA Dystopia are still THG and The Testing series – Divergent was a brilliant opening novel but I feel like after that it lost the dystopia quality I’d originally read it for.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. judiththereader says:

    I actually really like The Handmaid’s Tale – I like all things Dystopian and depressing, and I thought a lot of Atwood’s messages and themes were cleverly done. I chose to study it at A Level and got 100% on my coursework comparing The Handmaid’s Tale with Orwell’s 1984. The only thing that bugged me was the really obvious feminist arguments throughout. I suppose this is to be expected, given the time Atwood was writing in, but by about halfway through it got really repetitive. I get it, Offred – you have to reproduce or you are meaningless, you don’t have to remind me every 5 minutes. Nice review! :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • novellique says:

      It’s completely not what I was expecting in terms of dystopia – I’m a huge dystopia fan but Handmaid’s Tale seems to approach it from a different angle. Offred doesn’t seem to ever really want to escape, if you know what I mean? Which is different from every other dystopia I’ve read because she was alive before society broke down, remembers freedom, and still doesn’t try to escape. I thought it was a really interesting take on how everyday, ordinary people would react to a dystopia world.

      Liked by 1 person

      • judiththereader says:

        Yes, I thought that too. I think it’s supposed to show how male dominance has utterly suppressed any kind of resistance of women – or perhaps Offred secretly knows this life is the only thing she has left, and at least she has a purpose, and value.

        Liked by 1 person

        • novellique says:

          To be honest I think it’s more likely the latter – we see other women who resist, but Offred doesn’t seem that interested even when she’s literally being given a way out. She doesn’t seem to want to fight for it. I agree, I think she realises she has a purpose and wants to maintain that, no matter how terrible it may seem.

          Liked by 1 person

          • judiththereader says:

            Of course, I’d almost forgotten about Moira – although when she gets punished I always felt so sick and squeamish about the description of what they’d done to her. I think it’s ironic how the brothel is also seen as a sign of freedom for both the men and women, which always struck me as bizarre.

            Liked by 1 person

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