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Cat Gray ([personal profile] catness) wrote in [community profile] a_reader_is_me2014-04-24 07:54 pm

Book: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Number of pages: 311
Genre: sci-fi
Book Number/Goal: 41/52
My Rating: 5/5

Review:
American government has been overthrown by religious extremists who establish the new order. In particular, women are stripped of all civil rights, even banned from reading and writing. Women are men's property, and their status/role in the society (e.g. wife, housemaid, warden) is strictly regulated. The main character, called Offred by the name of her owner, is a Handmaid who belongs to a high-ranking commander, and her purpose is to bear him a baby. As the aftermath of the war, births are rare, and healthy babies even rarer, so child-bearing women are a valuable possession, but they are regarded only as "wombs on legs".

The story is Offred's "mental diary". In a dry, matter-of-fact style, she describes her daily existence, interspersed with memories of her past, normal life with her husband and daughter, now lost forever. The picture of the society in all its shocking details emerges bit by bit, keeping the reader constantly engaged.

This creepy fantasy is entirely realistic, drawing from the cultures where de-personalization of women is a norm. Several characters, including women, argue that the new establishment is for their own good: there's no more street violence, porn, struggle to keep with fashions, and other trappings of the immoral and decadent society of the past; now women are protected, cared for, and provided with the necessities required to survive (that is, unless they try to rebel - infidels are punished without mercy). Foreign tourists gawk at American women clothed from head to toe in "modest" garments, and talk among themselves that these women are happy because it's their culture and they're used to it. Everything so familiar... so depressing.

The epilogue, written as a scientific lecture, is out of place and doesn't fit the tone of the story, but creates the impression that the writer couldn't resist dumping all her background notes onto the readers. But otherwise, fantastic reading - highly recommended!

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