Monday, August 12

bibliophile [the handmaid's tale]

This one is a classic that I finally got around to reading, and I'm so glad I did.

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood

This is pretty much Orwell's 1984, but the government is a patriarchal theocracy and the narrator is a woman, not a man. Blurb time:

In a startling departure from her previous novels, respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

The narrative is circular and segmented, but by the end of the novel I felt like the full story had been told. And what a good story it was. I like these post-apocalyptic, dystopian novels and imagining how terribly the world can spin out of control- I find them comforting, maybe because it makes our lives seem not so shabby by comparison. I like the fantasy-like atmosphere Atwood creates, this "republic of Gilead", believable but also absurd. I think this is less a "feminist" novel and is more a study of man and all we are capable of: of inflicting, of enduring, of re-framing, of ignoring, of enjoying.

I also wanted to say something on book covers. I know I've talked about them before, but they truly are a dying art. For a classic like this, there are so, so many versions of the cover, and even more once a novel has been made into a movie. I really connect with this version, because it's the one my mom had at home when I was a child. I just think it's interesting that we feel such a pull towards certain covers over others- for another example, I hate most LOTR trilogy book covers, since my family has such a beautiful leather-bound set, to which nothing can compare.

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