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The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986, 311 pp
Summary 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...
The first novel I read by Margaret Atwood was Cat's Eye in 1996. Back then I was still reading trashy bestsellers but branching out and checking out more literary stuff. I don't remember how I came to read Atwood. She had already been publishing for 30 years. Once I started though she quickly became one of my top three favorite novelists. I have read all her novels and marveled at her intelligence, her clear-eyed view of the plight of women and the future.
I first read The Handmaid's Tale in 2000. At that time I wrote, "This book is not about hope. It is a given that the human spirit will fight against oppression. This book is a warning of what could happen in America if freedom is not protected."
And here we are, post 9/11, post Obama, mid Trump. Our freedoms are dwindling away, our country divided it seems more than ever, some of us fighting for freedom and justice, many of us watching what is called the American Way of Life morphing into a very different way of life, some of us oblivious or misinformed about how we got here. And so it goes.
I read it this time for a reading group and because of the series on Hulu. Again I have not yet watched the series. The book had more of an impact for me this time. Those of us who have been around for a while, who are fairly financially secure but who thought we were keeping our eye on things, are not particularly at risk, but our children and grandchildren could be, especially our daughters and granddaughters. All the elements that created the theocratic governmental control of women's lives in the novel are simmering in the background.
I am glad to see the book have another burst of time in the spotlight. If it all goes to hell, we can't say we weren't warned. I wonder how The Handmaid's Tale will seem 20 years from now.
(The Handmaid's Tale is available in paperback on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)