The Handmaid's Tale has been high on my TBR for years. Ever since my gender studies class, I've seemed to be surrounded by people, online and in person, who have read and adored the novel. A staple of feminist literature, I always felt slightly embarrassed that I hadn't read it yet. With the release of the Hulu series this week, I literally had no excuse left: I HAD to make time to read this classic. And even though there has been years of build up, I was not ready for how amazing it was.
I purposely tried to start this novel without too many preconceptions of the story; no summaries read and I didn't even watch the series trailer. I can highly recommend going into the novel like this so my summary will be short and extremely spoiler-free, for your reading pleasure.
The Handmaid's Tale is the story of Offred, who lives in the Republic of Gilead. This is a dystopian society where the roles of women have tremendously changed. Offred is part of the first generation of women to go through this change and the novel chronics her experience with the new world versus her memories of her old life. Offred's role is to reproduce, to have a child with a man she is assigned to. This man is always married and his wife will play a role in the process too.
If you think that's too vague, that's the point. Margaret Atwood is such a talented writer and is really able to take her reader on a surprising journey. At so many points, I thought I knew what would happen in the story, or what was insinuated by a certain character, and I was always absolutely wrong.
The Handmaid's Tale strength lies in the fact that the whole plot seems so incredibly batshit crazy, yet also like it could happen to us tomorrow. Literally, in the current world with the current leaders, tomorrow. We could wake up and suddenly become Offred and part of that first generation of women that experiences a whole new world.
Which is why the book is so heart breaking. Atwood wrote this in the 1980s and today it rings as true as ever. Where is our progress? Why can't we just laugh at this insane view of a future world? Why is the book so painful in so many ways? The book never made me cry because I was hurting for one of the characters; the book made me cry because it made me hurt for our own world. This is extremely powerful and unlike any book I've ever read.
I have to give this book five stars, but honestly, a rating doesn't do it justice. This beautifully composed story with amazing characters on its own would be five stars. Reading it in the current climate and seeing how well Atwood has analysed and portrayed the human mentality is beyond any rating I could give it. All I can say is: don't be like me. Don't wait years to read this novel. Read it today.