My rating: 5 of 5 stars ★★★★★
The world has fallen from a series of disasters and the United States has risen as the Republic of Gilead. Fertile women who once lead happy lives are now “handmaids.” Their only purpose is to reproduce. They can no longer have families, jobs, money, or access to knowledge. Offred can remember her life before and it haunts her every day.
Very rarely does a book affect me as deeply as this one did.
Because although this is a dystopian novel, this story feels possible. And that is a terrifying concept.
I want to say this: There have been many, many people talking about this book with the new Hulu series just having come out. I haven’t seen the series and I am NOT saying anything about our current political climate because I’m not interested in making any kind of statement. Know that. But I’ll say this: It feels like the kind of stifling oppression in this book could really happen.
She gives the reasons, the events that came first: Nuclear war. Radiation poisoning. Terrorist attacks. Rampant sexual assault and murder.
It all sounds too familiar.
There were places you didn’t want to walk, precautions you took that had to with locks on windows and doors, drawing the curtains, leaving on the lights. These things you did were like prayers; you did them and hoped they would save you. And for the most part they did. Or something did; you could tell by the fact that you were still alive (226).
Offred is the loneliest character I have ever come to know. I wanted to learn her story and at the same time, I didn’t. It was too sad. I wanted her to find peace and safety, but it didn’t feel possible. I put myself in her shoes constantly, asking the question, “How would I feel in this situation? What would I do?”
The brand of foreboding, anxiety, and distrust that fills 1984 is the same that fills this book. Trust no one. Any respite won’t last.
“The Chestnut Tree” song from 1984 came back to me often while I was reading this book. The mistrusting feeling of it matched perfectly…
“Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me:
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree” (77).
Although there is a general feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness, that’s almost the beauty of this book. You’ll hurt. You’ll feel deeply. And despite everything, you’ll know that Offred is brave.