The Handmaid's Tale tells the story of a dystopian future, told in the first person by Offred. The society as we know it has crumbled. What's taken its place, is a totalitarian system that oppresses women across social class by establishing an extremely patriarchal society. The narrative has 3 sides, 'The Then' where Offred talks about her past and recalls major events leading up to the fall of the government. 'The Now', which gives us a view of the life of a typical handmaid. The third side is sort of like a dream state or a state of thoughts, where Offred is wondering about a certain event or time in her life - past, present, and future. These 3 sides mix and overlap one another so the narrative switches between past and present seamlessly. There are many themes that the book touches upon, from feminism, inequality to politics and religion.
One of the highlights of the book is Atwood's pristine choice of words. I consistently came across sections where I paused and took a breath or simply marvelled at the way some of the things were described. My favourite quotes from the book are - “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”, “But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.” and “We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?” I am a little surprised by how much I enjoyed the book, to be honest. That's because this is the first book I have read of Margaret Atwood and when I picked it up, I didn't know what to expect. However, it took me the first few pages to tip my hat to the Atwood, another 10 to start loving the book, and the next 20 to be in awe of her.
Naturally, the book finished sooner than I had hoped, but my hunger for Atwood's storytelling was not satiated. I wanted the book to go on, to keep flowing beautifully, like it was, these last 300 pages. Truth be told, It is not rare for me to feel disappointed when a book I love finishes too soon. It happens with almost every Brandon Sanderson book I read, being the fantasy buff that I am. Although, the reason is very different. Usually, I am disappointed because I loving the rush of the climax, the big reveal, the protagonists coming of age etc. However, In The Handmaid's Tale, I felt bad because I had spent so much quality time with Offred. I did, and I loved the fact that I was getting to know her. The imaginary eye rolls under the 'white wings', her dark humour, her fears, her pain, her indifference, the gush that came with looking someone in the eye, and the joy of an actual conversation, all of it. It feels like we have been through so much together, and yet, somehow, it seems like we had only just started.