Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is one of those books that I’ve had for so long that I made myself believe that I had already read it. In truth, I’d picked it up a few times and never got beyond the first chapter, thanks to one distraction or the other. Then a few months ago, I came across this list of 10 Novels That Will Disturb Even the Coldest of Hearts, and I was immediately intrigued. Most of the books were ones that I’d only heard of, except two, one of which was Atwood’s.
A heart numbing book is a good reason to get yourself back to the activity of reading. I’ve been a slacker as far as reading is concerned, taking shelter in other, less arduous things like watching all the seasons of Dexter.
Atwood is a wonderful writer, and I knew that because I really liked her Alias Grace when I read it in the ’90’s. She is also the writer of one of my most favorite poems. So once I got past the first few chapters of The Handmaid’s Tale, I was hooked. The book is deceptively long, but the short, curt chapters keep the pace moving. The story is set in the recent future when most women have become sterile, and religion has taken a grip over the people and the government. The protagonist, Offred, is one of the few women who can still get pregnant and works as a handmaid at the Commander’s house. Her sole purpose is to reproduce.
The story is, as expected, rather bleak and hopeless; but it’s worth reading just for Atwood’s writing prowess. There are moments of such profundity in her writing: observations, thoughts on love, tricks of narration. The story might be one that we’ve kinda, sorta seen in movies, TV shows – a bleak future, people trying to rebel, etc.; but Atwood’s genius is worth reading. Though I was a little underwhelmed with the end, I can at least tick off a classic from my list!