Published in 1985, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ seems more relevant now than it did upon its original release. Hulu has made the book into a series which I happened to just finish season 2 of. I have to say that I was hooked in episode 1, and I felt the same when I picked up the book.
It’s set in a dystopian America where women aren’t allowed to read, write, drive, or have a paying job. Women are relegated to being wives, maids, or baby carriers because in this dystopia, babies are rare. Many men are sterile, but you can’t say this unless you want to die by public government sanctioned hanging. It’s the woman’s fault, you see.
The story is told from the perspective of one handmaiden who is assigned to a Commanders household for the sole purpose of having his baby. She is hated by the Commanders wife, looked down upon by the servants, and can trust no one.
She is an unreliable narrator, often telling stories and then saying “I made that up.” In the context of her reality, I don’t blame her for living in a made up world on occasion. The Handmaid, Offred, has a witty sense of humor and it keeps the novel from being totally depressing.
If you have seen the show, the main difference between it and the novel is that the commander and Serena are an older couple in the novel. Joseph Feinnes and Yvonne Strahovski are much younger in the show and I find that I prefer them that way. The book ends abruptly, with Offred taken out of the commanders house and not knowing where she will end up, though she tries to hope.
It’s worth reading, this handmaid’s narrative. A sad, scary yet witty take on a future that no longer seems like an impossibility.