How about a little feminist dystopian literature to kick off the holiday season? I am ashamed to say I only just read The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time a few months ago. It rocked my world in a way only the genius of Margaret Atwood can. I have read some of her other work, and the woman is just downright amazing.
I haven’t watched any of the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale (and likely won’t) so this review is strictly based on the two books. Despite being late to the game to read Atwood’s classic novel, published in 1985, it did prepare me to read The Testaments, the follow-up novel published this summer.
The Testaments places the reader back in the dystopian world of Gilead (formerly the United States) and alternates between the points of view of three different women. You might think from the beginning that one of them is Offred, the main character of The Handmaid’s Tale, but that would be wrong. Gilead is a place where women are regarded as objects merely for reproductive purposes. They are executed regularly and abused on a daily basis.
Atwood creates this place and the characters in it with dark artistry. Her dialogue is clever, like one narrator saying: “Torture is like dancing. I’m too old for it.” After finishing The Handmaid’s Tale, most of us were left wondering what happened to Offred and if she was ever reunited with her family.
Mild spoiler alert:
Just when Atwood has us thinking there’s no hope, she has an evil character do good, and reunites a mother with her two children in some of the most beautiful writing I have ever encountered.
“She smelled right. It was like an echo of a voice you can’t quite hear.”
In true Atwood style, much is left up to the reader’s interpretation, but I finished the book certain that Offred’s fate was a relatively happy one and that Gilead would surely fall.