Monday, December 30, 2019

Review - The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Available on Paperback

Last month, I dragged all the books out of a closet just so I could find one paperback — The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

I had purchased the novel just a few weeks after the first season of the Hulu series ended in 2017. To precise, I stumbled upon two paperback copies at a thrift store and I picked out the better of the two. Like many of the books I buy, this paperback got put away in the closet and I'd forgotten about owning it until after I started watching the web series on DVD.

The Handmaid's Tale was originally published in 1985. It's set in an all-too-real dystopian world, where a religious cult has overthrown the United States government by murdering the President and all of Congress. America is now known as the Republic of Gilead. After the fall, American citizens headed for Canada. Many were able to cross the border in peace. However, others never made it, especially fertile women.

The rights of women were eliminated. They were no longer allowed to read, own property, and handle finances. Fertile women (Handmaids) were forced into slavery. A Handmaid is sent to the home of a Commander and once a month she will participate in "The Ceremony" where the Commander's wife would hold her down while the Commander is raping her. "The Ceremony" would keep occurring until the Handmaid becomes pregnant. Shortly after giving birth, the Handmaid would leave the household (and her baby) and be sent to live in another Commander's home. A Handmaid takes the first name of her Commander with an added "Of" in front of it, which represents possession.

The novel is told from the point-of-view of Offred, a Handmaid who's ordered to visit her Commander's office (or chambers) alone late at night, which is against the rules. At first the situation seems to be harmless with the Commander only wanting to play a game of Scrabble. However, things quickly change when the Commander gives Offred a fancy dress and smuggles her into the city, which is unknown to his wife, Serena Joy.

Serena Joy is a former televangelist who is one of the many women who cannot have children in this world. Desperate to become a mother, and suspecting The Commander is sterile, Serena Joy comes up with a dangerous plan to help Offred become pregnant.

Offred was once the wife of Luke and they had a daughter. She believes Luke is either dead or imprisoned. As for their daughter, she was taken captive and given away to be raised by a new family. 

Final Thoughts

There's a reason why The Handmaid's Tale has been challenged by many libraries over the years. It's because of the many heavy themes throughout the novel, such as politics, religion, women's rights, and rape. I would have never been interested in reading this book it wasn't for the Hulu web series, which I binge-watched on DVD in November. Even though I already knew what was going to happen, it was still a difficult read for me. When I say difficult — I'm referring to the subject matter and not the quality of the writing. Don't get wrong, I loved the novel ― it's just...well, you have to read it yourself to fully understand.

Everything that happens in the novel does take place in the first season of the series, though the series has added more depth and expanded the story quite a bit. Offred's real name is never mentioned in the book, though in the web series her name is June.

Overall, The Handmaid's Tale is an incredible story that I devoured in only a few sittings (and a few cups of coffee). Despite my opinion, I would never recommend the novel to anyone unless they're a fan of the Hulu series. I almost bought the book as a Christmas present for a friend but decided against it at the last minute because the dark plot isn't for everyone. I did buy the newly released sequel, The Testaments, for myself and I'm planning on reading it soon.


  1. What a great copy of the book! Love the artwork!!

    1. I like this edition's cover better than the newest release. The paperback is the ninth printing that was published in April 1987.


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