(Status book jacket: Jacketed)
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, a gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, has become one of the most powerful and widely read novels of our day.
In the Republic of Gilead, Offered is a Handmaid serving in the house... hold of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out to markets once a day, whose signs are images now because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander make her pregnant, for her value lies in her fertility in a time of declining birthrates, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offered can remember a time when she lived and worked with her husband and daughter before she even lost her own name. Now she is navigating the intimate secrets of those who are controlling her every move, risking her life in violating rules.
Like the Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and the Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, The Handmaid's Talehas endured not only as a literary landmark, but as a warning of a future that is still chillingly relevant.
I sink down into my body as into a swamp, fenland, where only I know the footing…. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping. Inside it is a space, huge as the sky at night and dark and curved like that, though black-red rather than black.
As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes. Voices may reach us from it; but what they say to us is imbued with the obscurity of the matrix out of which they come; and try as we may, we cannot always decipher them precisely in the clearer light of our day.
Then we had the irises, rising beautiful and cool on their tall stalks, like blown glass, like pastel water momentarily frozen in a splash, light blue, light mauve, and the darker ones, velvet and purple, black cat's ears in the sun, indigo shadow, and the bleeding hearts, so female in shape it was a surprise they'd not long since been rooted out. There is something subversive about this garden of Serena's, a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard, though silently.
The willow is full plumage and is no help, with its insinuating whispers. Rendevous, it says. Terraces; the sibilants run up my spine, a shiver as if in fever. The summer dress rustles against the flesh of my thighs, the grass grows underfoot, at the edges of my eyes there are movements, in the branches; feathers, flittings, grace notes, tree into bird, metamorphosis run wild. Goddesses are possible now and the air suffuses with desire... Winter is not so dangerous. I need hardness, cold, rigidity; not this heaviness, as if I'm a melon on a stem, this liquid ripeness.
Reviews of The Handmaid's Tale
I would highly recommend this book to older readers who are looking for something more mature than the YA dystopian novels out there today or anyone who liked 1984 by George Orwell.
Atwood has created a spirited and engaging narrator and surrounded her with an array of active and passive supporting characters, each of whom represents a type familiar in America today. She has rounded off her icy cautionary tale with a desperately needed and hilarious spoof of an academic convention...
...the didacticism of the novel wears thin; the book is simply too obvious to support its fictional context. Still, Atwood is quite an esteemed fiction writer...Demand for her latest effort, therefore, is bound to be high; unfortunately, the number of disappointed readers may be equally high.
It’s a powerful and frightening story and a novel that I think everyone should read. Margaret Atwood writes some beautiful books which are full of wonderfully written phrases and imagery, but this is the best of her plots, thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommendable.