When Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale was released in 1985, it was an immediate and visceral success. Thirty-two years later, the novel is even more terrifying and socially relevant today.
Set in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian theocracy that has overthrown the United States government, The Handmaid’s Tale follows the story of Offred – a woman that is prized for her fertility in the same way horsebreeders value a winning horse. Offred is a Handmaid, a woman in indentured servitude to the Commander. She has one purpose only – to bear his healthy children (not as easy as one may think in this near future dystopia) and then to be assigned to her next household. But Offred is not a horse. she is a woman; she can remember a time before Gilead, her husband and young daughter, and perhaps more dangerously…she remembers her own name.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a story of survival in the face of oppression, and the strength of the human condition despite all attempts to break it down. Readers today will no doubt identify just as strongly with Offred’s plight as they did when the novel was first published. This is a must-read for any fan of thrilling dystopia, or someone just looking to remind themselves why our lives today are so precariously wonderful.
The Handmaid’s Tale has just been adapted into a critically acclaimed HBO television series, but as always, there’s nothing better than the book!