Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Monday, December 7, 2015
Why I chose this book: 
Though I have heard many things about this book over the years, I never picked it up. Actually, I don’t think I ever would have picked it up if it were not for the fact that it was required reading for my Women in Literature class. Having said that, I don’t think I will properly be able to explain how much I loved this book and yet hated it at the same time, and how much Atwood’s words really messed with my head.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood 
Publisher: Anchor Books
Release Date: 1985
Genre: Adult, Dystopian
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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now... (Goodreads)

My Bookish Thoughts:
How do I go about explaining this book? How do I go about describing my feelings? It’s going to be difficult, so please bear with me.

When I first began reading The Handmaid’s Tale, I didn’t like it. The way she wrote was so descriptive, but not in the flowery, beautiful way I was used to. No, the descriptions found in these pages are short, succinct, direct—almost painfully so. I think that’s the point. The descriptions of Offred’s life were agonizingly clinical at times, because as a handmaid, she could not have feelings or opinions, or even be her own person. She was stripped of everything even her free will.

I think see the main character so objectified throughout the novel is what made me sick the most. She was property, and forced into things that she didn’t want to do. It was sickening, but what was even worse was the government that sanctioned it all.

The government in this novel is a twisted theocracy. Atwood took many ideas and words from Christianity and twisted them so severely and institutionalized it into the reigning government. It makes me grateful for a democratic/democratic republic nation (even though it’s ridiculous sometimes).

However, the scariest thing about this book is that it wasn’t a dystopia that was based in technological advancement. This world was very eerily like our own today. It’s not that hard to imagine this happening in our own world today.

Final Thoughts:
Part of me loved this book. That it was written, that it calls attention to women within a society, but it also made me scared and sick, because it was not far off its mark. This is most definitely one of the most thought-provoking novels I have read in a long time.

I gave this book 5 stars.


  1. This has been on my to-read list for years. I first heard of this book back in 2000 or so from a woman in the dentist office, and have been meaning to read it. Based on you review, I need to get it quickly. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh yes! You must read this book! It's a rough read, especially at first, because the main character is somewhat an unreliable narrator, but you get into the swing of it. I would highly recommend the audiobook. That's how I ended up reading it. and I loved it!

  2. I've been meaning to read this one for a long time, too. I had to read another one of Atwood's books (Surfacing) in university, and I absolutely hated it... so I've been a bit wary of trying her other works. But the subject matter of this one sounds far more interesting, so I might give it a try one day.

    Thanks for the review!

    1. She's really hard to get into, I admit. It doesn't surprise me that you have had a hard time with her work in the past. It took me a long while to get into the book too, and even though I gave it five stars, it wasn't because I particularly enjoyed her writing. It was honestly, very stilted in a lot of ways and hard to connect to, but the statements she made about this society, and the deeper, underlying message of this book was really what captured me. I hope you will give it a try. I highly recommend the audiobook. It's narrated by Claire Danes and she did a fantastic job.


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