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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Just Finished Reading... The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Attwood

For some reason I thought I had read this before. Well, some of it was familiar, but I suspect I never finished it then. This time I did. Mainly, I decided to read it now because I have been unable to watch the TV series at this stage, even though it's available online at the SBS station web site. I think my OS and browser are out of date and I can't update either till I delete a lot more stuff on my computer. I will wait for the DVD.

My copy is an ebook, a new edition with an intro by the author. The intro alone is a fascinating read. For example, she says she made the decision that her story would have nothing in it that hasn't happened at one time or another in our world. She has simply put it all together in one dystopia. It was written back in the 1980s, before the Internet was more than a bit of an experiment, and even then it was possible to simply switch off credit cards. Imagine how easy it would be today. Even in Australia we are being asked to give up freedoms, give authorities extended rights, all in the name of security. The novel is scary exactly because it is so easy to believe!

The novel starts when the nameless heroine(we only ever know her as "Offred", i.e "Of Fred", her master's name) is already living as a walking womb in the Republic of Gilead. The author tells us in her introduction that it's Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the place where bodies are hung like the heads on London Bridge is the wall of Harvard University. As the novel goes on, we gradually learn in flashback about her earlier life with her husband and child and how one day she is a working woman with an income and the next day her credit/debit card is cancelled and her boss has to sack all his female employees.

Interestingly, the Wife whose baby she is supposed to bear is a woman who used to be a member of a choir on a TV televangelist program when "Offred" was a child. The woman was one of those who declared in public that women should be staying home, in the kitchen, and no doubt regrets it now.

The "history conference " documents at the end were interesting, throwing hints of what might have happened. You needed that, because there was a very abrupt ending to the main story.

I thought there was rather too much flashback and my goodness, didn't those characters smoke! 

Still, an interesting story, one which is unfortunately all too believable, and hopefully I will be able to get hold of the DVD at some stage, and see how much difference there is.


Pamela said...

This is one that I tried and tried to read as a teen, but couldn't get into. I read it in March of this year as things were really ramping up here in the States and I thought it was brilliant and terrifying. The scariest part is that it's fiction, but it's almost like people are using it as a handbook instead.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Not a book fòr a teenager, I think. You got it as an adult.

This book has begun to sell strongly again and so has 1984. But in the end, it's a novel, as you say, written long before current events in the U.S. However, she did say that everything in the book was inspired by something that had happened in the real world. It just wasn't something anyone expected to happen in the U.S.

Sarah Johnson said...

I was required to read The Handmaid's Tale in high school and didn't get into it much then either - as was the case with many novels I was obliged to read and then analyze. We were asked to read a certain number of chapters each night for homework, not the ideal way to appreciate a book. Time for a fresh reread, I think, given current events.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Having to read a book for English can spoil it, unfortunately. On the other hand, there were a lot of books I would never have got around to reading if they hadn't been in my booklist.

I suspect that if a school set that novel now, there would be complaints from outside of political correctness.

I hope you enjoy it more this time!