This is the story of Offred, she is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She is there for the purpose of procreation. She is only allowed to leave the house to go to market once a day. Offred’s life wasn’t always like this, she can remember a time before with her husband and daughter.
We follow Offred through her daily life. Her thoughts and her conversations. At times she seems like an unreliable narrator, she has a habit of telling about something and then going back and saying it didn’t happen like that. It’s really sad when you realize how much the Handmaids don’t enjoy whats going on. There are a few mentions in this book as to why the chandelier in her room was taken down, why the window has shatterproof glass, and that they aren’t allowed knives, the food is pre-cut for them. We also learn that the Handmaid in the house before her killed herself.
Margaret Atwood has a way with words. This is her second book that I have read and it was just beautifully written. Every passage seemed thought out, every description was perfect, not to long, but enough to truly understand. I have an example that I will type up below of two of my favorite passages.
“Dances would have been held there; the music lingered, a palimpsest o the unheard sound, style upon style, an undercurrent of drums, a forlorn wail, garlands made of tissue-paper flowers, cardboard devils, a revolving ball of mirrors, powdering the dancers with a snow of light.” ~ pg. 3
“Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows within its translucent wrapping. Inside it is a space, huge as the sky at night and dark and curved like that, though black-red rather than black. Pinpoints of light swell, sparkle, burst and shrivel within it, countless as stars. Every month continues on and passes out of sight, and I see despair coming towards me like famine. To feel that empty, again, again. I listen to my heart, wave upon wave, salty and red, continuing on and on, marking time.” ~ pg. 73-74
I also really felt able to connect to the story. I felt like I could relate to the Handmaids, because if I were in the story, that is most likely the position I would have been in. I also enjoyed the way the story wasn’t fully fleshed out. There were still things, at the end, that didn’t have a full explanation, mainly how the society ended up the way it was.
I really enjoyed this book. It was my buddy read book this month for one of my goodreads groups. It was an adventure in book form. It made me think and ponder. I’m really glad I finally got to read it. If you haven’t read any Margaret Atwood I would highly, highly suggest you do. This is a great starting point. The other book I read by her was ‘The Heart Goes Last’ which came out on Sept. 29th. My review for that is here. I definitely plan on picking up another book of hers soon.
Now onto the good stuff. I used sticky arrows in this book, and I used a lot. 14 in total. I already mentioned a few of those above in the non-spoiler section, but down here I am going to talk about the other ones and maybe go more into a few of the ones aforementioned.
I feel bad for almost everyone involved in this. I feel a bit more for the Handmaids , mostly because they are closer to my age and therefore closer to what I would be if I were in this world. The Wives seem to enjoy making life harder and more unpleasant for them. When Offred first shows up, the Wife doesn’t immediately let her in the house. She stand there to show dominance and to make Offred feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. She also mentions, so many times, about the shatterproof glass and lack of a chandelier. It seems that she is not only thinking of the one before her, but also of her own mortality. How easy it could be to end everything.
One sentence that really got me thinking about the Wives was “Which of us is it worse for, her or me?” Offred seems to understand that the Wives don’t like it either. The Wives are just as upset about the situation. They lose all sexual contact with their husbands because the government decided that fun sex was frivolous and not necessary. So instead, the Wives have to sit, with the Handmaids head in their lap, while the husband has sex with the lower half of her body.
When the Commander decides that he wants to spend more time with Offred, outside of what is allowed, it gets a little strange. He wants to play Scrabble with her, which is illegal, women aren’t allowed to read. She does learn a few things during this. She finds a sentence carved in the dresser in her room, which is in another language she doesn’t understand. Eventually she is able to ask the Commander what it means. “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” which means “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
The ending is a bit confusing. I don’t know what to think. Whether the guards were really with the rebellion or if they were just normal guards coming to take her away. It seems more likely that they were with the rebellion though. I guess we will never truly know what happens to her.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?