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This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (Vintage Classics) (Kindle Edition)
This is the first book I've paid full Kindle price for (I usually stake out the Deal of the Day and catch titles for 99p or thereabouts), and I took a bit of a gamble as I have never read any Atwood before. I am pleased to be able to say it was an excellent purchase.
The Handmaid's Tale is written as a blend of several different forms of first person prose, principally taking place in the fictional state of Gilead (established after the United States government is violently deposed by a fundamentalist Christian sect). The book seamlessly joins together fragmentary episodes from various times in the narrator's life, along with stream of consciousness reactions to her 'current' situation and imagined escapist alternatives to the events that are actually occurring. As complex as it sounds, the recipe works well and the text simply flows.
The plot deals with issues such as fanaticism, gender separation, sexual power, the right to self-determine, and mandatory birthing. It does this in a way that mirrors and therefore emphasises the quiet, vicious practices of the ruling classes of Gilead. We are introduced to "them" very early on by Offred, the narrator, but the true scope and horrifying brilliance of the Gilead social engine is slowly and precisely dripped in throughout the entire story, until by the final scenes the reader is almost as desensitised to the brutality of the regime as the cowed and muted Handmaidens living through it.
The Handmaid's Tale is probably one of the better dystopia novels I have read, and I found it easier and more enjoyable to get along with than Brave New World. It's a very useful study in systems of power and abuse, and I'd recommend it to anyone.