The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this stark new world, there has been a catastrophic nuclear war and what is left of America has now become the Republic of Gilead. In this theocratic and totalitarian state, freedoms have been curtailed, the Eyes are everywhere watching every move. In this cruel state, the handmaid Offred barely exists, her freedoms are curtailed, she can shop daily with another handmaid, and everything that she does is monitored. In this society there are almost no children, so the handmaid, a fertile woman placed with one of those societies elite with the intention of providing children to a Commander and his wife. , The act of trying to impregnate her is called the ceremony, and it is carried out once a month at the optimum moment where she is the womb between the husband and the wife.
My name isn't Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it's forbidden.
In this mundane life, she remembers the life before women lost almost all their rights, the daughter that was stolen from her, and her husband who was shot trying to save them by getting them over the border. As if this wasn't traumatic enough, she was sent to the Rachel and Leah Re-education Center where she was taught subservience and indoctrinated by the sadistic aunts who ran the place. In her walks to the shop, she passes the Wall, a place where dissenters and others that state deems to be troublemakers are hung and left for all to see. But not is all it seems in this society, Offred discovers that the elite still hankers after elements of the past world that the state has forbidden and that however much you oppress people there is still a rebel in everyone.
I lie in my single bed at night, with my eyes closed, and the name floats there behind my eyes, not quite within reach, shining in the dark.
I haven't read many books by Margaret Atwood, but the few that I have read have been superb. This tale of a shocking dystopian society has been drawn from the various societies that oppress women in one way another around the world at this very moment, and distilling them into this has made them much more sinister. Her real skill in this is the way these elements are brought together make a frighteningly plausible and very readable story full of razor-sharp perceptions. There are no dramatic twists, just this steady feeling of dread as you read it. Compelling and definitely a modern classic.
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