Offred is a Handmaid, whose only purpose is to live a simple holy life in the household, and procreate with the Commander and his wife. In this new dystopian society that had overthrown the government, women have no rights and men have few as well. Well, men had more than most, but really only the rich ones. Offred is allowed to shop, but may only exchange minimal words with her shop partner. She was trained for this. The only place Offred can be herself is in her mind and her memories and even she second guesses herself doing that. When the Commander starts breaking the rules, Offred begins to remember what “before” was like, and the power of women.
Check out what my book club thought about The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Our consensus? We LOVED it! I purposely have not watched the show, waiting to read the book, and I purposely have not read the book, waiting for my name to get picked out of the hat so I could choose this one. And boy, was I glad I did! Here are some of the snippets of my book club’s discussion points:
– We kept being frustrated that there was nothing one could do to help Offred about her situation.
– We like to think that she could trust him (Nick).
– It took some of us a while to get into it, but once we did, we were in, and are going to revisit it.
– Definitely a reread, to catch what might have been missed.
– She was never at peace because she constantly missed her daughter.
– I wanted to read all of the books about all aspects of the book – what happened before? What happened after? What is Nick’s story? Moira’s? Ugh! So many possibilities!
– The introduction was very interesting, especially in these times. Atwood was writing it in West Berlin in 1984 and noted that what could happen there and in the story could happen anywhere. And it really could.
– We thought it surprising and interesting that the identities were attached to the households and not to the individuals.
– The novel was very well-written with such attention to detail that we found ourselves going back to perhaps catch a glimpse of something else, something new.
– The way she set up the setting was amazing too – just the atmosphere and how the layer of before was still present under the layer of after.
We highly recommend it. Now off to watch the show!
The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population.
The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and a tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.