Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (3.5/5)

First published: 1985
Page count: 324

The back says: 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...

I say: This is another one of those novels that I’ve heard people gush about for years, but never been intrigued enough to search out. So, when I saw it in a second hand bookstore, I decided to finally read it.

And then it took about six months before I got to it...
I wanted to like it a lot more than I did, and the main problem was that I found the prose very tiresome. There were too many short sentences, repetitions of words and just a general lack of fluidity that made me read more slowly and laboriously than I usually do. I found myself focusing too much on how it was written, ultimately rendering the reading experience a bit meh, which is sad because it is a great story.

I did find Offred somewhat annoying and naïve, which was interesting through a literary science perspective, but not so much for my literary enjoyment. The best part of it all were the historical notes at the end of Offred’s tale; they really put everything into perspective and made me appreciate Atwood’s skill a whole lot more. I’m obsessed with metafiction, and even though the reader is in constant doubt as to whether what is being told really happened, the end pretty much voiced most of my suspicions.
More than anything I find this to be a great vehicle for conversation about the new society they’ve created, which isn’t so farfetched from a lot of places in the world. There was a sense of foreboding throughout that vexed me to no end (because I hate forebodings), but I was pleased with the ending.


  1. It's been a looooong time since I read this (ok, it's been about 3 years but a lot of crap has happened since then!) so I'm feeling a bit like 'IT IS NOT BADLY WRITTEN' but... I definitely can't remember THAT about it. But I do know that it completely engrossed me for as long as I was reading it, so there's that. I do think Atwood is really really good at dystopias though, and I KNOW that this scared the shit out of me.

    1. 3 years is a long, long time for readers... But we'll have to agree to disagree on the writing because it did nothing for me. I'm not a fan och the narrator addressing the reader, and I think Offred (who I didn't like) did it a tad too often and only to say that this was a re-telling of events (which we already deduced) or to change her story - not to mention the episode where she speaks in Moira's "voice".

      It was not for me.