The Handmaid’s Tale is a book that flips you on your head and makes you consider questions you’d rather not ask (let alone answer) about the future of society. The world the characters inhabit is just recognizable enough to be terrifying, and the story line is more like a firsthand historical account – “here’s how things are, this is the way life is” – than any plot driven hope that things could or will change for the characters. And yet…I was intrigued. I was captivated. I kept wondering how the lives of the people in the book would turn out. The book is outrageous and relatable in the strangest ways. That’s why I can’t give a blanket-statement recommendation for it, but I personally am glad I read it.
I’m not the only one who has been recently captivated by this novel, which was originally published in 1985. (I can’t help but see some poetry in the fact that it was published one year after the year in which Orwell’s dystopian novel took place.) An original TV series based on the book premiered on Hulu this April. Actually, it debuted the day after I finished the book (the timing! more poetry!). Needless to say, the novel has just enough grit and sex appeal to make it worth an entertainment industry audience. I haven’t watched the TV series, but I’m curious how they portray the themes in the book and the fragmented plot.
The novel takes place in the future and shows what might become of society if some certain groups’ interests prevail and overpower the existing systems. Like I said, it makes you ask questions, one of the main ones being, “Could this really happen?” It is such an extreme situation for the characters, but with flashbacks to the past, we see how it all devolved to its current state. Their past is our current day, so we are able to draw a seemingly plausible trajectory to what can become of the world as we know it. Dun dun dun…
In the end, this was a highly original, interesting, unsettling book. If it was unsettling for me in 2017 I can only imagine how disruptive it was in 1985! Makes me curious about its original reception. Either way, it’s definitely in the spotlight now and I’m looking forward to the discussions that come of it. Let me know if you check it out!
Stats: 320 pages
Recommended for: Hmmm…not my grandma. Ha! I guess this would be for anyone with a tendency toward dystopian novels or interest in gender politics.
Up next: Nine Island by Jane Alison