Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel set in the New England area of the United States, which is known as the Republic of Gilead. In this society, the former United States government has been overthrown and has changed into a military dictatorship under Gilead. Since then, this new regime quickly expanded its power, ultimately controlling everything from the rights of individual people to religious studies. Offred, a Handmaid (a fertile woman whose role in this society is to provide children for high ranking men), narrates the story, which focuses on her individual experiences as well as the general day-to-day life of a Handmaid. Through Offred’s narration, she reveals her past and present, retelling how Gilead came to be, her current life as a Handmaid, the family she had and lost, the fall of women’s rights, and rising resistance. As Offred brings her story to life, she uncovers the horrors hidden beneath the utopia that Gilead appears to the outside world.

The thing that astounded and made me enjoyed this book immensely is that the details Atwood incorporates into the book draws from real events in history, thus making The Handmaid’s Tale under the category of speculative fiction. It’s incredible that when I read the book, I believed that every single detail came from Atwood’s imagination, because, in a way, they were too horrid for me to perceive they’re part of our history. It truly changes how I view the world from now on. Another thing that’s incredible about this book is how Atwood uses colors to describe the roles of different women in Gilead—Handmaids wear red, Wives wear blue, Marthas wear green, Aunts wear brown, and Econowives wear red, blue, and green stripes. For me, it’s interesting that every color fits the role of each category of women and because I believe it plays a vital role in the story though it’s not highlighted; it reveals the morals of Gilead and a glimpse of its functions. Overall, The Handmaid’s Tale presents warnings of all sorts to its readers and proves a wonderful read, that stands the test of time (did I mention it was published in 1985?!)

Though The Handmaid’s Tale is a great book, it’s certainly not for everyone. I would recommend this book to those who are not disturbed by darker themes and are open-minded; after all, it does not shy away from the corruption it presents.

-Review by Teen Advisory Board Member, 12/18/20