Offred 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.
When Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel "The Handmaid's Tale" was released in 1985, it was an immediate and visceral success. Thirty-two years later, the novel is even more terrifying and socially relevant today.
Set in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian theocracy that has overthrown the United States government, The Handmaid's Tale follows the story of Offred - a woman that is prized for her fertility in the same way horsebreeders value a winning horse. Offred is a Handmaid, a woman in indentured servitude to the Commander. She has one purpose only - to bear his healthy children (not as easy as one may think in this near future dystopia) and then to be assigned to her next household. But Offred is not a horse. but a woman - she can remember a time before Gilead, her husband and young daughter, and perhaps more dangerously...she remembers her own name.
The Handmaid's Tale is a story of survival in the face of oppression, of the strength of the human condition despite all attempts to break it down. Readers today will no doubt identify just as strongly with Offred'd plight as they did when the novel was first published. This is a must-read for any fan of thrilling dystopia, or someone just looking to remind themselves why our lives today are so precariously wonderful.
The Handmaid's Tale has just been adapted into a critically acclaimed HBO television series, but as always, there's nothing better than the book! - Jack (QBD)
Margaret Attwood has a way of telling a story like no other. The words she uses to paint a vivid picture of a dystopian future are astonishing and off-putting at times. She doesn't try and dress up her writing with unnecessarily fancy vocabulary, yet still manages to affect readers in such a life-altering manner.
Although this novel is fiction, it depicts a future that is not as far-fetched as we'd like to think. The Republic of Gilead is not a place any woman would hope to find herself. Offred is a Handmaid, and her value is reduced to nothing more than that of a body to produce offspring. Women are stripped of their rights, yet cannot rid themselves completely of the memories of a life they once had.
The Handmaid's Tale will make readers uneasy, but in a way that any notable classic should. - Danielle (QBD)
The Handmaid's Tale
"You wanted a women's culture. Well, now there is one. It isn't what you wanted, but it exists."
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is a cleverly crafted narrative set in the Republic of Gilead, a futuristic dystopia in which women are commoditised and valued by their fertility. Described as both a feat of science fiction and a foreboding moral message about femininity and the enduring power of the patriarchy, Atwood's work focuses on the highest class of fertile females whose names such as Offred and Ofglen identify them as daughters of their fathers, rather than autonomous beings.
The story is a delightful contrast narrated by Offred, who recalls life before the totalitarian Republic of Gilead was established, and how being chosen as 'birthgivers' changed right before her the attitudes of many women she once knew. She lives in a home where she, among other young women living there, must be impregnated by the man of the house, and struggles with the reality that failing to become pregnant will result in her disposal and demotion of human worth. Written in first person, Offred speaks straight to the reader of her illegal affair, and outlawed pursuits in reading, writing, books and board games. For fans of other dystopian fiction such as George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Lois Lowry's The Giver, The Handmaid's Tale is excellent science fiction and a memorable segue into feminist prose. - Hannah
QBD The Bookshop, 11/03/2016