The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel set in the near future where a totalitarian Christian state has taken over America. Women are second class citizens and must fit certain roles. The story follows Offred, who is a concubine for a rich man, as she learns to live with her situation that is vastly different to what it was before the whole world was turned on its head. The story has flashbacks so you can see how Offred ended up in her situation and how America turned into this controlling state.
The problem with dystopian stories set in the near future is that I can’t help but wonder how people are OK with what’s going since they remember a time before when they were free to do what they pleased. I want to shake the characters and get them to fight back because I can’t imagine just dealing with a terrible situation when it used to be so much better. Though that being said, history (unfortunately) dictates that such things do happen and an oppressive force can silence people who are scared.
The jumps from the present to various points in the past without any easy signposts is a bit confusing to start with but you soon work it out. The story, world and society is fascinating. It’s so vastly different from our own with women being treated as second-class citizens but there’s also small elements that resonate with what women have to go through in the real world today.
Offred was an interesting character. She is a victim of circumstance and I kept wanting her to fight back and escape (she did try once in the past) but now she is just going about her life, living for the small victories.
There’s a quote on the front of my copy of the books saying it’s “Compulsively readable” and it certainly is. The world is fascinating, the writing is simple but effective but there are some problems with the lead character. The Handmaid’s Tale is definitely worth a read and I’m glad I picked it up for Banned Books Week. 4/5.