Rummanah Aasi
  I have never read anything by Margaret Atwood before. I have been meaning to read her books for quite a while. So when I saw her The Handmaid's Tale on the list of frequently challenged books, I thought this would be a great opportunity to read a modern classic. The Handmaid's Tale was written in 1985 and it was published in 1986, which probably means her novel was in response to the conservatives taking office in the West (i.e. Reagan in the US and Thatcher in Britain) and the call for a strong, well-organized movement of religious conservatives that wanted to eliminate the waywardness of the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s. Many feminists feared that the rights they had fought for were going to be revoked by these conservatives. Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale questions what would happen if the right wing, religious conservatives controlled the government and reversed all of women rights.

Description: In the not too distant future the Republic of Gilead, formerly known as the United States of America, a monotheocratic government is in power. In this society women are strictly controlled in order to ensure their safety. They are forbidden to have jobs or money, education, and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives.


Why it was banned/challenged: In 2006, Judson (TX) school district board overruled Superintendent Ed Lyman’s ban of the novel from an advanced placement English curriculum. Lyman had banned the book after a parent complained it was sexually explicit and offensive to Christians. In doing so, he overruled the
recommendation of a committee of teachers, students, and parents. The committee appealed the decision to the school board. In 2007, the ban was overturned. Sources: ALA and Marshall University Library


Review: There are some books where I wouldn't mind living in, but Gilead is definitely not one of them. Atwood doesn't allow the reader to ease into Gilead. After reading the first few pages of the novel, I knew I was in for a tough read. The book is not complexly written, but the subject matter of the harsh treatment of women is not a 'curl up in the couch' read. Gilead is without a dystopian society, where women are reduced to empty vessels and used solely for the purpose of procreation.
   The novel is told from the point of view of a woman simply known as Offred (pronounced Of Fred), who is a Handsmaid to the Commander and his wife. She lives with the elite in a small Victorian home and is only permitted to wear a long red dress and a white hat with wings, which prevent her to see much. Her sole function is to consummate with the Commander in hopes of being pregnant. Sex is viewed as simply a biological function or recreation and it is not intimate at all. In fact in Gilead, the Commander's wife holds Offred's hands while her husband has sex with Offred. The act is more rape than anything else.
  The writing and the world that Atwood created are startling, complex, eye opening, and frankly, seem almost too close to home for women living in today's oppressed society. Most of the story takes place either in Offred's flashbacks of the past or her current world. The characters are cold and distant, which I believe was intentional by Atwood. It is through Offred that we are able to find out what was life before the current regime took over.  I didn't warm up to Offred, though I did feel sorry for her at times, which is why I didn't enjoy the book as much as I wanted to. It made me upset that Offred didn't do more to change her situation. In fact all the minor attempts to counteract the government of Gilead have been failed attempts.
 The plot and pace of the book also bothered me. I felt that Atwood hit the dangers of the monotheocratic government over and over again. She does not provide a solution or answer to how the world should be and lets the reader to decide that for him or herself. Obviously the answer lies in being the medium between the two extremes. Due to the repetition of themes, I thought the plot dragged and the paced slowed to a halt. Nonetheless, The Handsmaid Tale is an important novel of the 20th century. Its criticism and discussion of both politics and reproduction rights make it an easy target for bans and challenges. 

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language in the book. Sexual situations such as rape are alluded in the book, but not described in graphic detail. For these reasons alone, I would recommend this book to only mature teen readers and adults.


If you like this book try: Orynx and Cake by Margaret Atwood

 The Speak Giveaway ends tomorrow at 10 EST tomorrow!


1 Response
  1. BookQuoter Says:

    I really liked this book; the last few pages after the last chapter made the book really awesome for me.


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