Monday, September 24, 2007

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but this is the first Margaret Atwood book that I've read and it's unlike any other book I've ever read. The book was written in 1985, but I found it to be extremely timely considering many of the things going on around the world, especially in places like Afghanistan. The leadership in the novel clearly resembles the Taliban. In the book, the United States has been taken over by religious zealots hungry for power. In this new regime, Gilead, women are powerless. Declining birth rates, due mainly to AIDS, result in young women being forced to become sexual slaves for high-ranking officials in the hopes of producing offspring.

Atwood reveals the story of the handmaid bit by bit. Offred is telling her story first-person but after the fact. She goes back and forth in time revealing parts of her life in the "other time" and how she came to be a handmaid.

"Historical Notes on the Handmaid's Tale" at the end of the book allows the reader to see that the cruel theocracy ends, but the reader is left to ponder the fate of Offred.