Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

One thing I wanted to start doing now that I’m rededicating myself to the blog is moving some of my book reviews over from Goodreads to the blog. I love Goodreads, and I’ll continue using it, but I also like to get all of my writings into one place.

When I write reviews on Goodreads, the vast majority of the time, it’s in the immediate aftermath of finishing the book, so they’re not high caliber or well-polished. Which, I guess as a review, makes it better in terms of an unvarnished impression. But that also means I could rate a book higher because of the “book high” and then think of reasons later I might rate it less.

Also, for the most part, I do not do spoilers in my Goodreads reviews, so that’s why they’re also not as long as my traditional reviews usually are. So, there are no spoilers in the review below.

Anyhow, here is that review for 1985’s The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood, which I started and finished in February.

I’m certainly not going to be able to say anything new about this book that someone else hasn’t already said, but two thoughts will suffice for now:

1.) It’s just a gorgeously written book, and I found myself wanting to pull quote so many of the lines and share them. But it’s also readable in terms of being far more — modern, I suppose? — than I expected. It’s a loose, but also tight use of language, if that makes sense. And in fact, the stream of consciousness writing actually makes a lot of sense once you get to the end.

2.) As far as dystopian nightmares go, I always thought totalitarianism, if it ever came to America, would be allowed in willingly through an open door, not have to force its way in. Granted, there’s force initially — and it is force that is ominously permeating everything — but there’s a sense in which, modernity falls away rather fast in acceptance of the new normal. With that said, I’m not sure I could buy it to this extent and extreme. There’s obviously different strains of resistance within this book, but even so, I find it incredibly hard to imagine a world like this could actually come to be. Maybe I’m optimistically naive.

Still, it’s an interesting dystopian to imagine, and again, just so gorgeously written. Well-worth the time.

I should also note, I’m now reading the 2019 sequel, The Testaments. That review will be up whenever I finish.

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