The Handmaid’s Tale (The Handmaid’s Tale #1)
By: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Dystopia, Fantasy
This is the story of Offred, one of the”Handmaids” whose purpose is to breed. In the new social order in which women are told they are being controlled for their own good, Offred lives in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is sent out once a day to the food market, chaperoned; she is is not permitted to read; and she is hoping the commander makes her pregnant, because if not she’ll be sent to a toxic work camp, or end up as a sex slave in Jezebel’s. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, and a husband and a child. But all of that is gone now… everything has changed. – Goodreads
There’s no doubt that I once bought this novel at the TV series height and wanted to read what it was about in anticipation for when I would get the chance to watch it. Until this very day, I haven’t watched the series yet but here we are, the first book of this series done as well as the first Margaret Atwood book done and dusted. While I want to say that I had in incredibly great time with it, it definitely was not the case. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of Atwood’s most known and popular titles (according to the blurb in Goodreads) and its no surprise that it was adapted into a TV series considering its premise and characters. It is quite suitable content to make for some engaging and compelling TV series. However, as the book itself, there are certain things that aren’t quite to my own preference.
Before we start with the cons, let’s start with some of the good stuff. The Handmaid’s Tale creates a wonderful dystopia future. This future is harsh and takes away the basic rights of women decreasing fertile women to simply being emotionless and obedient birthing machines as their life from what they eat to their lifestyle to their purpose being derived solely from being impregnated by the Commander of their household. What does make it more messed up is that they are doing all this in the presence of the Commander’s wife just like a substitute body. The dystopia world has its underground guilty pleasures and as Offred, the main character starts to be asked to do things against the norm from the Commander and his wife separately, she starts seeing these hidden elements of this dystopian world. That part of the story is where most of the fun is as Offred’s experiences from past and present do shed light on how the situation came to be, how she got to where she is and her observations from the things happening around her.
The issue with the writing itself is that it is very descriptive, at times a little bit overly descriptive that makes the pacing feel a little dragged out in parts. At the same time, the writing also tends to jump around between the past and present a lot. While the story itself doesn’t have an issue, there are times that it takes a while to know exactly which is in the past without warning. Especially in the beginning when learning about all these characters around Offred and their connection and purpose, etc. Perhaps its that I prefer a little more obvious structure in the writing structure and style which makes this element something that doesn’t appeal to myself as much. Its also that as I get older, the amount of structure and description also makes for a great deal of the read experience itself. Over the course of the novel, it does slowly become easier to catch on the past and present since the characters are more familiar. Just for a simple example, there was one part that bothered me was this whole meeting that was supposed to happen and then it goes on this whole detour of a few chapters before it actually happens.
With all that said, The Handmaid’s Tale is an okay reading experience. Overall, it has a really good world building and the dystopia concept is pretty well-executed especially since it is the first book of two and does build a good foundation, seeing as the story does end on a cliffhanger of sorts. The writing structure and style isn’t exactly something that I’m a big fan of but if you don’t mind those elements I mentioned above, then this might be up your alley!
Goodreads score: 3/5