October 08, 2011
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the house of a Commander. Since the fall of the old government there are several new regulations. For instance, women can now only have a few roles. Wives, which are married to the Commanders and have the most power, although its minimal. Handmaids are the concubines whose only purpose is to produce children in a time where infertility is high. Martha's take care of the household. Aunts run things behind the scenes. And there is another group of lesser wives for poorer people. None of them have much freedom. For Offred she is on her final assignment and if she doesn't produce a baby horrible things will happen. But this assignment is an odd one. The Commander doesn't treat her as normal and the whole household has their own plans for her. Combine that with remembering her past when times were normal and it leaves her feeling depressed at the best of times. Her biggest worry is that she'll be caught doing something illegal, and there's plenty of that now to catch her on.
For characters there were none I really connected with. Offred, despite being the narrator just doesn't pull you in to care about her. All the other characters are seen through her eyes and even her daughter from the past doesn't pull a lot of emotion.
The prose in this was not to my taste. For having Offred being the narrator, it doesn't read like you would think someone would recount events as. The book moves fast too and focuses on uninteresting things when it could focus on more interesting things, like some of the other details about the new regime. I think that Atwood really limited herself when she chose to tell this story through only one character. There was so much more I would have liked to know. I felt the ending seemed incomplete as well.
While I do like the idea I just don't think she executed it well. There definitely was room for improvement.
The Handmaid's Tale
311 pages + Reader's Companion