Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is one of those books that I don't want to say much about because part of the joy of reading it is in the unfolding of the story. In general I can say that it is a portrayal of a woman named Offred who lives in the future, dystopian society of Gilead. The story is riveting (it helps that this is one of my favorite genres), and the writing is genius. I will throw you a few gems:

"I lie in bed, still trembling. You can wet the rim of a glass and run your finger around the rim and it will make a sound. This is what I feel like: this sound of glass. I feel like the word shatter. I want to be with someone."

"I know where I am, and who, and what day it is. These are the tests, and I am sane. 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."

Maybe the best description of the story can be given in this passage from Offred, the narrator:

"I wish this story were different. I wish it were more civilized. I wish it showed me in a better light, if not happier, then at least more active, less hesitant, less distracted by trivia. I wish it had more shape. I wish it were about love, or about sudden realizations important to one's life, or even about sunsets, birds, rainstorms, or snow. . .
I'm sorry there is so much pain in this story. I'm sorry it's in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire or pulled apart by force. But there is nothing I can do to change it."

Nothing needs to be changed about this story. I enjoyed every single page, even though it took me far beyond my usual PG-rated bubble. (It is included in the American Library Association's list of most challenged books of 1999, and is number 37 on the "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000," due to parental disapproval of the content.) Nonetheless, I am anxious to read more of her writing.


  1. I've seen this one around quite a bit, but have never picked it up. Think I must...

  2. it's been many years since i read this one, but i consider it an all-time favorite. i found it to be very powerful.

  3. This was a wonderful and deeply disturbing book. I ended up not really liking it, but it made a powerful impression on me.

  4. I have linked your review with mine.


  5. I didn't love it (I like how you say it's not PG -- no way!) but I too found it an engaging and enlightening read! Scary to think of such societies in the world easily developing.