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…
4/5 stars. Dystopian.
In a world where infertility is the leading cause in the decline of the human population, the value of women who can carry children is enormous and they are highly coveted.
Offred is one of these women who has give birth and now she is meant to share that gift as a Handmaid. In a ceremony, a husband, wife, and Handmaid will act the process to hope the Handmaid will become pregnant for the couple, but it is not “love making” anymore; the love part is gone. It is not a romantic experience, but a religious one.
Offred doesn’t want to be here. She wants to go back to the life she had with her husband and daughter, but she can’t escape because there are people always watching and listening.
With no voice and too many eyes, Offred struggles and walks the tightrope that has become her life.
So, a funny story about how I acquired this book: I use my mom’s audible account because why spend money twice? I’ve been reading all of the books she’s already had purchased for a long time (she is more thriller/mystery, if you have noticed most of my audiobooks being in these genres). Anyways, I went through and added some to the wish list that I wanted to read and my mom was like, “To my wish list?” and I was like, “Dude, we can tell the difference. Mine are all science fiction and dystopian and yours are biographies or thrillers.”
And then what appears on my audible? The Handmaid’s Tale. And I was like, wow, I wonder if I magically convinced my mom that she had added The Handmaid’s Tale to the audible wish list instead of me.
I was actually disappointed by this book. I expected a lot because it is one of the most famous dystopias out there, and it had been recommended to me many times. Maybe I just got it too hyped up.
The thing that bothered me about the book was the amount of telling. Offred told us about the world and about why they were watched and what happened, but we didn’t get to see much of this. I would say at least 60% of this book is telling rather than showing and that doesn’t sit well with me.
The lack of showing made it difficult for me to connect with Offred as a character or any of the others. I didn’t particularly care for her and I couldn’t feel how horrible it was to live in a society like this, although I knew it was horrible by the restrictions that were being placed on her and the other women.
I loved all of the mystery around the husband and the daughter because it led to so many questions. What happened to them? How did Offred come to be here? How did they get split up? Where are they now? Will she ever see them again?
We got some of these answers but I still wanted more. I wanted to know the nitty gritty details of what happened in that moments and wish there could have been some more.
Perhaps this is intentional though, because of the way the book ends.
In a future time of the book, the content of The Handmaid’s Tale is discovered, buried in the ground. When was this buried? When did she last have a chance to write about it? Using this technique helped the book come alive and made it feel more real. It also sort of justified the telling. In diaries, people generally tell instead of showing. It is quicker and all we are trying to do is explain what, not why and how and all the rest of those questions.
I listened to this on audiobook and I liked the reader, but didn’t love her, likely because she was American and of course I am in love with all the British readers! But, that is of no fault to her! Other than the accent, I had no complaints!
Has anyone seen the tv series based off this book? What do you think about it? Should I watch it? Has anyone who read the book had the same feelings I did about the telling of the novel?