The Handmaid's Tale (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 25 May 2017
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"Compulsively readable" (Daily Telegraph)
"The mother of all feminist dystopian novels." (Sarra Manning Red)
"The novel satirises the strain of evangelical puritanism in American culture and the objectification and control of women’s bodies. It is more broadly a contemporary myth of despotic power, and how such power deforms those who are subjected to it." (Tim Adams Observer)
"One of Atwood’s finest pieces of work serves as a great reminder of what humanity is capable of." (Hannah Dunn Red)
"Margaret Atwood is a wry and perceptive observer of society as well as an original storyteller" (Cecilia Heyes Psychologist)
From the Inside Flap
WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION FROM MARGARET ATWOOD
The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.
Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful vision of the future gives full rein to Margaret Atwood's irony, wit and astute perception.
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The book describes a dystopian world where many women have been left barren by nuclear toxicity in an area of North America named Gilead; consequently the new regime forces fertile women to live with the families of high ranking officials in order to provide babies for the elite. It is a terrifying world where women's rights have been taken away from them, for example it is a crime for them to read and write; the handmaids are under the jurisdiction of the ferocious aunts who seem to take pleasure in subjugating their charges by torturing and punishing them for every minor misdemeanour with their inhumane cattle prod.
I loved the symbolism of the book with the handmaids clothed as demure Quakers in long dresses complete with white winged hats which restricted their viewing; yet the dresses were scarlet as opposed to the Marthas attired in brown and the high ranking wives decked in blue; are the handmaids dressed in red because in man's Utopian world he has a vision/ fantasy of women with the subservience and obedience of a Quaker but the sexuality of a scarlet woman? The wives and aunts had control over the handmaids who all lived in fear of being shipped to the colonies where victims there were forced to clear up toxic waste without the benefit of any protective clothing whatsoever which led to their cruel and painful deaths within a few short years. All communities lived in terror and dread of the secret eyes who covertly spied upon the population ready to pick up offenders in their menacing black vans to steal them away to some unspeakable end.
The disturbing ending raised more questions than it answered although some clues are provided in the historical notes which provides further food for thought on the terrifying issues evoked. One thought Offred gave voice to remains chillingly in my head; she stated how humans accept and adapt so quickly and easily to changes in circumstances no matter how bad or wrong those circumstances are. I will finish now for fear of giving too much of the plot away but what a brilliant book, I will be thinking about this for a very long time.
If I had to use one word to describe this book it would be "terrifying". I simply loved it!
The Handmaid's Tale is a powerful story, brilliantly conveyed in the first person perspective and in the present tense, constantly unsettling and entirely convincing, and as desperate as 1984 or Brave New World.
It is a brutally effective polemic on conservative values, as devastating and precise as a cruise missile. People can debate whether it goes too far, and I thought that the appendix was unnecessary, but no-one could deny the book's literary significance. Offred's terror and desperation is completely convincing. As she goes about her daily tasks in fear of being arbitrarily denounced or disappeared, her feeling of helplessness is complete.
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