The Handmaid's Tale, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


NOW A SMASH-HIT CHANNEL 4 TV SERIESOffred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead.

She has only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like 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 which her future hangs. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America explores a world in which oppression of women, and repression of the truth, have become justified. 'Compulsively readable' Daily Telegraph


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Review by

An interesting feminist take on a dystopia. Not my preferred style of dystopian novel, but then again I don't have highbrow tastes in this genre (my favourite is [The Day of the Triffids]).The protagonist's discussion of the meaning of love and hope and relationships left me pretty unimpressed. Another unconvincing part was the disconnect between her thoughts and behaviours from prior to the war or revolution or whatever it was exactly, and after. I felt like Offred-before and Offred-after were different people, or separated by far more years than were revealed in the end. And the ending was weak. All subjective criticisms, but, meh. Perhaps it's because I'm a guy? I don't know.

Review by

This famous 1980s dystopian novel paints a vivid and bleak portrayal of a repressive regime (Gilead) set up in America after some kind of traditionalist right wing takeover, which involves placing most women in utterly subordinate roles as "baby carriers" for the wives of the ruling men in this society. Indeed, one of the new society's slogan is an ironic distortion of the famous Marxist Leninist slogan: "from each according to her ability, to each according to his needs". The new regime also destroys books, luxury items and clothes, and bans and represses all non-Christian religions, or indeed non-conforming Christians. An interesting scenario, though we don't really find out the back story as to how this perverted society arose until over half way through the novel. The coup apparently involved the massacring of the President and Congress, blamed on Islamic fanatics (though this is a throw away sentence which isn't explored any further); then comes suspension of the Constitution, censorship and closing down of the press, then laws stopping women from holding jobs or owning money or property (or even from reading books or magazines). By the time our unnamed Handmaid is telling her tale, the regime has been in place for a few years, though as she also says that the earlier pre-coup life is well within the memory of 14 year old girls, it seems a little surprising that the new order has embedded itself so completely in such a comparatively short time. We don't find out the ultimate fate of our heroine, though in a postscript set 200 years into the future, her tale is being discussed at an academic conference as a source of evidence of Gileadean theocracy.Despite this fascinating scenario and the commentary it no doubt provides, to a degree, on right wing Christian fundamentalism in the United States, I didn't really much enjoy reading the novel. I found the author's writing style a bit of a chore in a number of places and novels written in the present tense tend to grate on me. It was sometimes unclear whether the Handmaid was describing events in her present or her past and exactly how other events related to each other in time. So, a significant novel but not, in my view, a great one.

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