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Book review: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood.

What’s more comforting, when the world is turning to shit and we’re amidst a global pandemic, than reading yet more dystopian literature? Well, let me tell you, anything. Anything. 

I’m being over dramatic, I am a woman of course. The singular book is fine, it’s when you have a stifling obsession with dystopian in general that you begin to feel a little dismal. I have just closed the covers of this book and picked up Vox by Christina Dalcher. Two books silencing women. Next up, the Tattooist of Auschwitz. Some may ponder whether my mental health is indeed intact. It is. For now. 

Anyway, the book. See this happens, I just get off topic and roam off on adventurous tangents. Apologies. But, you will indeed become used to this trend. 

Margaret Atwood has every inch of my awe. Published in 1985, this critically acclaimed novel is one I would wholeheartedly encourage you to read. 

It’s slow, but that’s not to be unexpected of a piece set within the strict confines of misogyny and oppression. As Offred, the narrator expresses herself, it is not a tale in which she wishes to share. 

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

the handmaid’s tale, Margaret atwood

Embedded with patriarchal ironies and twisted plays of power – this book will get you thinking. 

Whilst it plays into typical misogynistic tropes, it also subversives the common dystopian themes of women, giving them a sense of power within the futility. You’ll laugh at well known ironies of men in power and weep at the seriousness of Atwood’s pen. 

With this book, I won’t take you through the plot or characters in detail. The beauty is for you to read it and interpret as you go. I am simply encouraging you to take the first steps in unfolding that first page and ploughing in.

“I am not your justification for existence.”

THE HANDMAID’S TALE, MARGARET ATWOOD

I like to savour books. I’ve never fallen into the trap of feeling rushed or like I need to finish a novel in an allotted time. I drink up the words like my first coffee of the morning, with true appreciation and sheer necessity. Books are an art form and ones like this deserve your full attention. I urge you to follow suit when you read this. The craft is not to be overlooked or rushed. It can be slow at times, but indeed I feel that follows the way in which these issues present themselves. Slow at first, until it all becomes too real, too clear and too dangerous. 

“Maybe the life I think I’m living is a paranoid delusion…Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.”

THE HANDMAID’S TALE, MARGARET ATWOOD

From a writer’s point of view, Atwood is incredible. The story weaves through the past and present, with flashbacks dotting each chapter. Reveals are seamless and sentences delectable. Honestly, the way in which Atwood writes is something most can only aspire to and I enjoyed this book on more levels than simply dystopian fiction. 

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