I can’t even begin to express how much I was creeped out by this book. Fortunately, I probably don’t have to. I’d had it on my TBR for a while because everyone was raving about it but the cover screamed Puritans and I really couldn’t stand either The Scarlet Letter or The Crucible, so I didn’t see myself liking this one a bunch. But Read Harder came along and I figured it was time to give it a go. Really, it was the combination of Read Harder and a move within 100 miles of Boston and everyone raving about it that made me relent and put it on the list of books that I was absolutely going to read this year. It is my pick for task 10 of Read Harder and I was still fairly apprehensive about it. And then the Hulu show came out and I realized I had somehow missed that this was in the future and the very dystopian nature of the book. Still, I was hesitant. What if all it did was piss me off?
I did everything I could to put it off as long as possible and there’s a part of me that is sorry I did so, but mostly I’m glad I waited until I was ready for it because it really is totally creepy. Could this really happen? Could women end up in this super-patriarchy? Well, the way it appears to have gone down from Offred’s descriptions seems totally plausible but I sincerely hope not.
Getting passed how creepily possible this could one day be, I absolutely loved the book. It’s really the kind of book that belongs in literature classes, and not women’s studies but the literature class that is taught to everyone. It makes you think about the future and our decisions and where we draw the line between safety and freedom. I’m a firm believe that nothing truly safe can be free and nothing truly free can be safe and these people have made a decision that really isn’t either, not for anyone.
I loved the world building and the intrigue. All those little things that we take for granted are suddenly sins. I can’t imagine living in a world where I couldn’t enjoy sex, couldn’t even be allowed to have enjoyable sex. Aside from that, there are the limited choices. For everyone. It’s like the men are freely out and about doing whatever they want. Women have to be “assigned” to them, so I don’t imagine their sex being any better than that of the wives or handmaids. I can’t imagine not reading anymore.
Our protagonist is Offred and the story is told in her first person point of view. It’s written mostly like a diary. Offred is relating her experience as a handmaid to whoever it is that gets her words down the road. It reminded me a lot of the prison scenes in V for Vendetta. The world is rather narrow, but that’s due to her view of it, but there are moments that relay the bigger problems, how she came to be a handmaid from what we would call a normal life and how the US came to be Gilead. There are holes in it, mostly due to her limited knowledge on what was really going on in the world. I appreciated that this handmaid wasn’t somehow all knowledgeable about how things came to be this way. But there are rumors and conjecture and guesses and contradictions, just like we deal with every day.
I had a special love for the characters of Serena Joy and Aunt Lydia, though I would probably not to meet either in real life. I know I wouldn’t like Fred. Nick seems sweet and I love the idea of this other side to him, he’s quite mysterious. I loved the way the story uses the future to give us a window into the past. I can’t help but wonder if all this sneaking around happened in the actual Puritan communities that much of the society seems built around.
I couldn’t help but watch the television series as soon as I was done with the book. I love Elizabeth Moss as an actress all the way back to Zoey Bartlett in The West Wing and she is AMAZING in this. In fact, the whole cast is just incredible. Because of the restrained nature of the culture, there’s so much in each gesture and look. I loved the way several characters had episodes devoted to their points of view and how it opens up the world. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
I actually bought The Handmaid’s Tale this time. I believe it was on some sale on Amazon and so I have it on Kindle. There are other ways to get it though, if you haven’t read it yet. I’m a big fan of going to the library but clicking on the cover image will take you to Booklikes for purchase options or just add it to Goodreads for later.