The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood
The Hand Maid’s Tale is a book in the tradition of 1984 and Brave New World, and was written in the mid Eighties.
The novel is set in America, which had recently fallen under a fundamentalist, theocratic government, where citizens are deprived of personal contact and under constant surveillance. There have also been some earlier environmental problems that have caused a drop in fertility.
The heroine has been picked to become a handmaiden, where the regime attempts to erase her past, including her name. Her task becomes to produce a viable baby for the Commander and his wife.
Over time cracks appear in the control and the human spirit comes through, although every time it is with caution in case the other person is an “Eye”
The novel is claustrophobic and some of the scenes are disturbing, and this caused a split in the reading group as it didn’t make for an entertaining read. It certainly seemed at home in the dark days of January. Marking varied between 3 and 9 with an average of 7, but it did provoke a lively discussion, some considering it topical with the recent political changes, while some thought that it was a bit dated. Let us hope that Attwood couldn’t foretell the future.
Footnote In a review of dystopian novels on the 4th February the Guardian highlights the famous lines “there is more than one kind of freedom … freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from.” The article also mentions that the novel was published one year after Reagan passed the law restricting funding of reproductive rights, and within the last two weeks Trump has just signed it back into law.
Book club score 7/10
John Scutt 5/02/17
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