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books and reading

The Handmaid’s Tale

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I first read this one ages ago. Maybe over ten years. After I read 1984, I devoured dystopian books. I still do, but I’m starting to run out of options. I definitely have burned through the classics in this genre. Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, The Giver, We, Anthem, and Animal Farm all come to mind. And I remember being just baffled by this book. I loved it, but it was so horrifying that I could hardly wrap my brain around it. I wanted to revisit this before I read The Testaments, and thankfully, this passes the Bechdel test, so I’m using it for the Popsugar Reading Challenge.

The story follows an unnamed woman, but we know her as Offred. Meaning she’s “of Fred,” essentially she belongs to this man, Fred. She’s a Handmaid, specially selected to birth his children. Most women are barred, so Handmaids are very important to the society of Gilead (formerly somewhere in the US, probably in New England). Offred is expected to participate in a Ceremony where both Fred and his wife are present, but Offred is raped. She is a Handmaid to live. She doesn’t like this role. She doesn’t have a choice, though. She has a husband and daughter but is unsure of their whereabouts or even if they are alive. Margaret Atwood wrote this back in the early 80s (published in 1985), and it’s really shocking how prescient she was. Of course, we aren’t close to living in a world like Gilead, but there are eerie hints, for sure.

Then Hulu produced the amazing series, and I got sucked back into Offred’s world. The first season is much like this book. I couldn’t think about Offred without imagining the brilliant Elisabeth Moss. Of course, a few changes were made, and a few characters were more developed in the book, but the season is a really well-done, faithful adaptation of the book. I’m curious to see what The Testaments brings, once it finally gets to me on library loan.