I’ve been meaning to read this one for a very long time – in fact, I’ve been meaning to read anything by Margaret Atwood for a very long time, and I finally got around to The Handmaid’s Tale this month. So now, at long last, I understand what all the hype is about.
I had really high expectations coming into this one, and for the most part, Atwood lived up to them. She does an incredible job of building a dystopian society that is somehow both near and far from the one we live in today – a feat that is both impressive and terrifying. (If you’re wondering how that something can be both near and far, consider one huge theme of the book: women’s rights. It’s hard to imagine a near future in which women can’t own property or have autonomy over their own bodies, and yet look at a few of the recent news stories… Texas abortion law… Britney Spears…). Within this dystopia, Atwood explores so many complex themes in addition to woman’s rights: the nature of memory, the importance of language and text, the role of government in society, and so many more.
The only place where I was just a little bit let down was that I felt like the final chapter, which is formatted as a dissertation of sorts on the society that the book depicts, seems to be used as a sort of way to explain questions that are unclear throughout the book. I was a little disappointed that they couldn’t be explained earlier or as part of the narrative, but that’s me getting picky…
Overall, I would recommend this to a lot of folks I know, and you can bet I’ll be listening to a lot of podcasts and book talks about this one. And of course, there is a Netflix series and a sequel (The Testaments) that I’ll be diving into soon as well!