Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies? Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets in which signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant because, in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before: when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now.... Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

My take: 4 looks
Dystopian society books are usually not my favorite, but this book was riveting. Set in what could be the very near future, society goes to a male-dominated theocracy quickly and with very little resistance.

It was shocking how complicit the masses are in this sudden and sweeping change to the fabric of society. Fear, combined with passivity and rationalization, form to make a straight path to a world which we fought from becoming at various times in our past. It is the typical "you may believe as you wish, as long as you believe as I do" mentality.

The writing here is superb, with Atwood commenting on the right, as well as the left. So much of her story smacks of today's organized religion and how far it has come from the ideals presented in the Bible. On the other hand, protesters are also caricatured. Not only are old feminist liberals taken to task, but those in subjugation are conflicted, too. Becoming fiercely demonstrative when given the opportunity to destroy a life, as theirs has also been destroyed, they do not hesitate tearing apart a human being with their bare hands, even as it makes some insane.

The commentary on the use of language, illiteracy, and lost of individuality in order for a small group to control the masses is sickeningly familiar. As opposed to other dystopian-centered books, this book has a possibility to it that is sobering.

Highly recommended.

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