I find that there are some books that always seem to be on my ‘to read’ list, yet I never get round to reading them. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale definitely falls into that category; I’ve been meaning to read it for years, but have never gotten around to it until now.
It tells the story, in her own words of Offred, a handmaid in the totalitarian state of Gilead. Rules are dictated by fundamentalist Christian values and any disobedience is punishable by death, or a life in the Colonies, dealing with radioactive waste. Handmaids have one purpose, to provide Commanders and their wives with children, in a world where birth rates have fallen dramatically and children are rare. Offred’s story jumps between the present and past, both before the state of Gilead was created and her training as a Handmaid.
Having now read this story, I cannot quite believe I waited so long because it is amazing. Every page is filled with tension and heightened drama; Offred’s voice is so clear and yet so disconnected, so broken. I loved the way her voice was written, particularly the obsession with words that she has, and the emptiness that echoes throughout the story. And despite having been written in the 1980s the story feels so relevant today. I was gripped within the first few pages and have barely wanted to put the book down since then.
An incredible, challenging, thought-provoking story, and one that kept me utterly gripped right up until its conclusion.