Customer Review

14 November 2017
‘It isn’t running away they are afraid of .We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge’

Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was in my TBR list since long. Thanks to one of online book club,I read recently and really amazed with it.

Plot:

As it is well-known fact that it’s a story set in distant future in dystopian USA. Country’s President is killed and parliament has been dissolved. Army takes over charges of entire nation. It is not regular army but Republic of Gilead.Its totalitarian regime governed by men only.

Entire story is narrated by protagonist Offred through tape recordings.

Offred is Handmaid. She is thirty -three. Her only job is to breed. Offred is not her real name. In Gilead society, all the basic human rights and freedom from women is taken away. They become second citizens. They have been categorized into Wives and Daughters of Commanders,Handmaids,Marthas and Aunts. Their functions and clothes are fixed according to their category and strictly watched by Guardians. If they don’t follow their duties, they are either hanged on wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness.

Story begins when Offred is newly posted in a commander’s house. She lives with commander, his wife, two housemaids and driver of commander.

Offred continually remembers her past throughout the story. She has a husband, a five year old daughter, a mother and a best friend. What became of them, she does not know.

Handmaids are allowed to go for walk and grocery shopping once in a day in pair. Offred is paired with Offglen. At the begging both they pretend as real believers of Gilead but as time passes they realize they are haters. Offglen is belonged to underground network of rebels who help people to cross border and disappear.She eventually hangs herself.

As the story progress, commander asks Offred to spend some time with him during night in his cabin in his wife’s absence. They talk,play scrabble and he asks for goodnight kiss. On the other hand, as Offred is not yet become pregnant,so commander’s his wife asks Offred to conceive child through his driver, Nick. This one night stand turns into passionate affair with Nick. They are not in love but they make love every single night. But at the end, a black car of Guardians arrives at commander’s house to take her away. So why she has been taken away? Who has made call to Guardians? What become of Offred eventually??

My Musings:

As story is set in dystopia, it is obviously disturbing read. But I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was quite comfortable read for me unlike Disgrace by J.MCotezee which was not even dystopian novel.

Handmaid’s Tale is considered as modern classic. But unlike other dystopian classics, this novel is narration driven rather than plot.

Margaret Atwood had fascination towards dystopian set-up since her early days. She has read and great fan of Orwell’s 1984, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Huxley’s Brave New World to name a few.

Offred seems real character. She hates her present and wantsto escape but does not have courage. As she has only one job of breeding and she is being taken care of by housemaids, she has plenty of time to spare. So she observes her surrounding and takes notes in mind. She has sharp observation skills. She remembers each and every minor detail of her daily routine and memories from past. She makes love with Nick without guilt as she feels something humanly in it in that in-human world. She even tells her real name to Nick.

There are other characters but all are narrated through Offred. So we may not get their real persona. They might have come out as with different personalities if story would have been narrated in third person.

The strongest and best part about the whole book is flow of lyrical narration. Lyrics are sad yet beautiful. Once in a while,we come across such rhythmic narration in fiction.It never loses its pace for a moment during entire story.

Author has used so many fabulous illustrations ,metaphors to describe the pain and heaviness of situation.

For example:

“The newspapers stories were like to dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How, awful, we would say ,and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic; they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people not in the papers. We lived in the blank pages at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.” (Page 89)

The only part I did not like is its open ending.Author let readers to imagine the ultimate fate of Offred.It would have been great,if we could know Offred’s destiny.

After reading this book I felt so grateful that I live in a world where such things are only on papers!

So grab this book if you want to witness dystopian painting of pain painted by one of the greatest artists alive today.
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