Reviewed by: Jennifer Chretien, Reference Librarian
Rating: 5 stars
Offred was once a woman with a family, a job, and access to knowledge in the Republic of Gilead. Now she is a handmaid a woman forced to live with a man of power and his wife and submit to him sexually every month in hopes of bearing his child. In this future, births have declined so significantly that a handmaiden’s worth is based entirely upon her fertility. Yet despite her dire circumstances, Offred still holds on to hope.
The first time I read this book was in high school. It was on a list of summer reading books before my sophomore year. It was one of my earlier forays into dystopian fiction and I can truthfully say it is the book that has had the biggest effect on me over the course of my life. I don’t know if it’s the subject matter or the way Atwood so skillfully sketches out a reality where women aren’t allowed to read in the future, but it still haunts me to this day. Each Presidential election cycle, I reflect back on this book and am unsettled by just how easily the fictional Gilead could become reality; certainly it has similarities to Middle Eastern theocracies.
The Handmaid’s Tale was banned for being anti-religion because it is critical of the government in Gilead, as well as for explicit scenes in which women (handmaidens) were brutalized. It is a significant and important work of literature that remains relevant over 30 years since its publication. I think it’s a book everyone should read because not only is it a brilliant piece of fiction but it also reminds the reader the importance of protecting your rights and to question authority instead of blind acceptance.