Book reviews

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Handmaid’s Tale by author Margaret Atwood has been on my TBR list since I started purchasing books last year. I heard a lot about it, but was never in the right mood for it.

This time though I decided to take the plunge and see for myself what kind of world Atwood has created.

I am horrified to walk the steps of Offred (the narrator) — to be in a place where women merely exist as trophies, cookies, maids, carriers of life. So different (but not really, in some ways) to today’s reality.

As I was sharing the general plot and setting of the novel to my boyfriend, it made me realize that this book must be read not only by women, but by men as well. That the fight for women’s rights are not to be borne by women alone.

Well, my boyfriend agrees (as he should, haha). I mean, we have mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends, wives. We all share a common responsibility to respect and protect the women in our lives.

Uncomfortable it may be read some parts, the power this piece of literature has is something I cannot deny. As a woman, it makes you feel conflicted — that you start asking what-if questions and looking at current realities.

I am sharing a short part below which, for me, speaks volumes. It is from a time when The Republic of Gilead (which wasn’t established as of this flashback by Offred) began removing some of the women’s rights. That the loss of her job may not have been a big deal for her husband (citing promises of providing a life for the family), but weighed heavy still on Offred as if it meant losing more. Which is what it really was. More. As she would eventually find out.

"Luke knelt beside me and put his arms around me. I heard, he said, on the car radio, driving home. Don't worry, I'm sure it's temporary.


Did they say why? I said.

He didn't answer that. We'll get through it, he said, hugging me.

You don't know what it's like, I said. I feel as if somebody cut off my feet. I wasn't crying. Also, I couldn't put my arms around him.
It's only a job, he said. Trying to soothe me.

I guess you get all my money, I said. And I'm not even dead. I was trying for a joke, but it came sounding macabre.

Hush, he said. He was kneeling on the floor. You know I'll always take care of you.

I though, Already he's starting to patronize me. Then I thought, Already you're starting to get paranoid.

I know, I said. I love you.

Later, after she was in bed and we were having supper, and I wasn't feeling so shaky, I told him about the afternoon. I described the director coming in, blurting out his announcement. It would have been funny if it wasn't so awful, I said. I thought he was drunk. Maybe he was. The army was there, and everything.

Then I remembered something I'd seen and hadn't noticed, at the time. It wasn't the army. It was some other army."

When women refuse to take up space in this world, we are not only refusing jobs or responsibilities. We are giving up on our dreams. We are belittling our capabilities. We are shrinking ourselves to fir a mold which society has set for us.

I am in no way allowing a world like this to exist, but the world isn’t mine alone. It is ours.

I hope, together, we can create a world we can be proud of. For me, that’s a world where learning is a treasure, and reading a pleasure. A world where we see beyond one’s gender, and where we protect one another.

I highly recommend this read. And I give it 4.5 stars.

  • Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Author: Margaret Atwood
  • Year published: 1998
  • Publisher: Anchor Books
  • Total number of pages: 311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-385-49081-8
  • Purchased from: FullyBooked (Greenbelt)
  • Purchase price: Php 599.00

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