This is my first Margaret Atwood novel and I know it won't be the last. I had been wanting to pick up this book for a while, but somehow I never got around to do it. This year, in the context of the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge, and the 2014 Soup Reading Challenge, I decided it was about time, and I couldn't be gladder I read it.
The first thing that struck me was the women's desolation and the loss of identity, and how the handmaids struggled to maintain it, even in secret:
"We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other's mouths. In this way we exchanged names from bed to bed:
Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June"
That's the end of chapter one. You just can't drop this book after that. In that one paragraph I felt their tragedy. It broke my heart. Soon you learn that even their names are forbidden: their only identification now is the man they belong to: Offred, Ofglen, etc.
At certain points, it's a little hard to keep up with the storyline because the protagonist tells you things as they come to her mind, and sometimes, when she's in the middle of a story, it becomes too painful for her and she just stops talking about it, leaving you without finding out what happened. While that complicated things a bit, it made it all the more real, I felt as if I was in her head, thinking what she was thinking, missing what she was missing. Piece by piece you start forming her past story and understanding her present, and I just kept thinking "she used to be just like me, that could have been me in another universe". Every memory about her family, her friend, her mother, made her more real, and her present life felt heavier. "How were we to know we were happy?", she would say every now and then, and that phrase alone has been in my mind a lot, and it's already making me looking at things differently.
Although there's more I'd like to write about, this is a spoiler-free review, so I'll just say this was a great read that from page one left me with a little hole in my chest and still has me thinking about it. FIVE STARS!!
What's it about? (from Goodreads):
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...
Oh, I found out there was a movie, which I haven't seen yet. Here's the trailer, in case you're interested.