3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An unusual dystopia,
This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) (Paperback)
I really enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale. I am drawn to Atwood's idiosyncratic style, and I can tell why this novel has been lauded. You have to be prepared to throw away the rulebook when reading it - speech isn't indicated, it hops about in time, it explains integral features of the plot at irregular intervals, changes narrator a couple of times... But that's part of its attraction for me - picking it apart, working out what's going on. It probably isn't beach reading but it's definitely compelling.
However, the main reason I'm writing this review is to try to counteract a few earlier comments which compared this dystopia with 1984 and Brave New World. I don't think it's fair to compare Atwood to Orwell or Huxley - not because she falls short, but because she's trying something totally different. Both 1984 and Brave New World bring characters and devices in to explain the functioning of their new political and social systems, but outlining a new system isn't Atwood's goal. Some people have commented that her world needs expanding, which I think could be missing the point slightly. Atwood is dealing with a character who is utterly insignificant, who has been plunged into confusion by the reformation of her country, a woman who can suddenly only experience the world as an underling. Atwood's is a psychological study of the key characters within her dystopia, so it's flippant to read it and compare it directly to more material descriptions of dystopian societies.