The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one option: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like all dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on whom her future hangs.
I’m not going to lie, one of the main reasons why I wanted to read this book was the success of the tv show, not unlike with Big Little Lies. I kept seeing everyone on social media rave about it, and I was intrigued. Now, I could’ve just started watching the tv show like everyone else, but I felt like being a little bit of a snob and reading the book first. After all, the book is always better than the movie or tv show, right? Well…
Full disclosure: This review was written in March of 2019, but since I hadn’t gotten around to posting it I’m doing it now.
I wasn’t really as into the book as I had expected, especially not in the beginning. There’s not really an explanation of what’s going on, and while reading the first few chapters you’re just mostly confused about the setting. And of course I can’t compare it to the tv show because I haven’t watched it yet (although I still want to, I think), but the hype surrounding it had me convinced that this was going to be a great read. However, I have to be honest and say: it just wasn’t. Maybe my expectations were too high, or maybe the creators of the tv show managed to capture the story in a way that makes it more accessible, but I found the book really hard to get into. You’re kinda just thrown in at the deep end, with no understanding of the events taking place, and throughout the entire book it’s never fully explained.
Having said that, however, as the story progresses you do start to get attached to the main character, Offred, and you’re rooting for her. You want everything to be alright for her in the end. And, even though I wasn’t particularly a fan of how the information is presented in the book, the mystery of it all does kinda drive you to want to continue reading, in hopes that it will all become clear on the next page, or the next. I’m also a little ashamed to admit that it took me a while to figure out the meaning of the name Offred. I thought it was just a weird, invented name like you come across in fantasy novels (*facepalm*).
Now, I can’t deny that The Handmaid’s Tale does leave you quite shocked at least a couple of times. You read about certain things and you just can’t believe that that’s how society works in Gilead. It’s honestly mind-blowing. And the worst part is that it doesn’t seem entirely impossible. You can kind of see where these things are coming from, and it’s terrifying. Especially in today’s social climate. There’s a certain balance that needs to be maintained, and if the scales tip too much in one or the other direction, we’re going to have a bad time. This book serves as a good reminder of that, I think.
I wasn’t a fan of the ending, though. At all. Obviously I’m not going to give too much away, but it was just an ending that didn’t work for me. Very disappointing, and you’re left feeling like you’ve still not gotten to the bottom of it. It’s a bit of an anticlimax, really. There’s this build-up to something big, especially in the last few chapters, and it all just dwindles down to nothing. I honestly feel like Atwood could’ve done a much better job of wrapping everything up, especially after making her readers struggle through chapters and chapters of non-information.
All in all, I don’t think I’d necessarily recommend The Handmaid’s Tale to anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I can’t deny that it got me a little bit hooked as I was trying to find out what it was all about. And, as I said, I’m still curious to see how the tv show handled the story. I’ve also seen on Goodreads that Margaret Atwood wrote a sequel (well, sort of) and I do think I’m intrigued enough to want to read that, too. Anyway, do let me know your thoughts in the comments if you’ve read this book (or seen the tv show, for that matter).
I hope you enjoyed reading and I’ll see you again next week with a new blog post!
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