The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — A Review

the handmaids taleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

RaeleighReads rating:cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

“This is the kind of touch they like: folk art, archaic, made by women, in their spare time, from things that have no further use. A return to traditional values. Waste not want not. I am not being wasted. Why do I want?”

Sometimes I leap immediately into writing a review after I finish a book, but other times I’m left with a lot of emotions I don’t quite know how to convey. The Handmaid’s Tale leaves me in the latter camp.

I love this book, but I’m not sure that’s really the right sentiment. I have a visceral reaction to it. It’s so important, but I fear its message is lost on those who need to hear it most.

“I know why there is no glass, in front of the watercolor picture of blue irises, and why the window opens only partly and why the glass in it is shatter-proof. It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge.”

I’ve read hundreds of reviews of this book — many lauding its sexual/political message. To which I respond, I’m with you sister! But so many more focus on 1) not enjoying the story (um, duh! you’re not meant to enjoy this); 2) not favoring the writing style (okay, but you’re missing something important by getting distracted by the presence or absence of quotation marks); and 3) an “other” category that I don’t even know how to explain (misogynist…*coughs*).

This leads me to ponder: Is the story the important thing? Is it the message or themes explored? Is it the writing style? All of these?

Sometimes, isn’t it more important to put aside personal feelings about style, grammar, and usage (the picky things), in order to focus on what’s being said, and, more importantly, how it makes you feel?

This book makes me feel many things. Anger, fear, and to a certain odd degree…apathy. It makes me recognize in my own life a tendency to go: oh, well, you know, that’s just how things are. This is my lot in life. What can ya do? This recognition then breeds intense anger — I shouldn’t feel that way. I should fight for my freedoms, my voice, my space in this world. We are all deserving of these things. Offred (main character) makes me want to live my life. Yes, a fictional character, makes me want to drop everything and squeeze every last bit of life from my short existence. She makes me want to abandon silly things like fear. She makes me want to be better, do better, and make better, human life and human existence.

Verdict: everyone should read this.

Recommendation: Let yourself feel this book, don’t just look at it with your eyeballs and the left side of your brain.

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4 thoughts on “The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — A Review

  1. In my very small house, books have to earn ther shelf space. The place of the Handmaid’s Tale is never in contention. Your review reminds me why – even though it’s one of my all time favourite books – I’ve never been able to write a review of it myself. You;ve prompted a re-read,but I’ll have to wait till I have a couple of free days so there’s planty of time to let it all sink in.

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  2. This book has been on my TBR pile for a while. Thanks for the reminder to get with it and read it. Good thoughts on why and how to read books that challenge our preferences – whatever those might be.

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