review by showhost
The Handmaids Tale is a strange book full of prose, which I often skipped through towards the end. I had to finish it to see what happened but it was a damp squid. What a difference from her other book I read 'Oryx & Crake' which I loved.
Basically the world has been taken over by a theological group and women are subservient in an oppressive society, the Republic of Gilead. The world suffered some sort of atomic fallout, families were separated, telephone lines ceased to function and bank accounts disappeared.
The handmaids wear the same uniform and their role in each household is to reproduce. The maker of the child is supposedly the 'commander' who's wife is either past childbearing age or is unable to produce. Although, if the commander is past it then desperation could arrange for the doctor or the chauffer to offer their services. Households who manage to produce a healthy baby, not a mutant, are considered in a higher esteem than those that don’t.
You are forbidden to speak or to have any kind of remnant from the past; magazines, papers, clothes, makeup, pens, anything. The commander and his wife run the household. If you speak ill of the establishment or commit any other ‘crimes’ you are either sent to the colonies (which is a radioactive place where you will die of radiation sickness) or executed on the wall in public with your head covered.
The story centres around one handmaid, Offred, her thoughts and her daily life, until the eye, the dreaded van finally comes for her. That’s it!
An example of the type of prose: ‘I sit in my room, at the window, waiting. In my hand is a handful of crumpled stars. This could be the last time I have to wait. But I don't know what I am waiting for, What are you waiting for? They used to say. That meant hurry up. No answer was expected. For what are you waiting is a different question and I have no answer for that one either. Yes it isn't waiting exactly. Its more like a form of suspension. Without suspense. At last there is no time’.
I found ‘Oryx and Crake clever and amusing but this book didn’t raise a smile at all.