About The Book
Offred is a handmaid in the republic of Gilead. Gilead is a totalitarian state formed after the President of USA was assassinated and the whole congress gunned down. At that time Offred had a different and ‘real’ name, a loving husband named Luke, a daughter and a job. She was living what we would call a ‘normal’ life. Only later, would she know that it was the ‘perfect’ life! Things start getting awry after the fall of the government. She loses her job, her bank credits get transferred to her husband’s account, she could not contact her mother and what not! Once the new regime’s intention becomes clear, she and her husband decide to flee but are unfortunately caught. She is then separated from her daughter and husband and taken to the ‘Red Center” to be taught, by ‘aunts’, the art of Handmaid-ing.
That is the summary of what is known about Offred’s past, as narrated by her. Offred is now a Handmaid in the house of the Commander. He has a wife named Serena Joy who definitely loathes her and avoids her as much as she can. Apart from her, there are two Marthas, Rita and Cora and a driver named Nick. The Marthas, as Offred tells, are women who are employed to do the daily chores in houses of the wealthy. Offred (supposedly) holds a dignified position in the house as she is supposed to conceive the Commander’s child. This is the job of all Handmaids: to conceive.
Welcome to Gilead! A place where Women aren’t allowed to read, work or be human beings. There are three classes of Women: the Wives, the Marthas and the Handmaids (Oh, and there are the poor Econowives too!). The Wives are the women who have been priviledged enough to be born in a family of good social standing. They also enjoy the priviledge of getting married. The Marthas are mostly infertile maids. The Handmaids are the vessels, they give the children, what an honor for them! These women are color coded too; blue for Wives, green for Marthas and red for Handmaids. Enjoy your stay!
Set in a dystopian future, The Handmaid’s Tale will leave you with a lot of troubling and unanswered questions. It is no doubt a great story but one that could have been better.
The Handmaid’s Tale’s greatest drawback, in my opinion, is the writing style itself. The writing doesn’t quite engage you even when you are desperately trying to stick on and read. Nothing much happens in the first 12 chapters which progress at an incredibly slow pace. There are moments when you lose interest in the book altogether but then you are bound to find something that assures you that your journey to that particular chapter wasn’t completely futile.
Offred’s past is described in countless flashes of memory. These flashes are arranged very randomly and no effort has been made to separate the past from the present. For example, once when Offred was with Ofglen, another handmaid, she suddenly starts talking about her daughter whom she addresses with the pronoun ‘her’. The reader will have to read the sentence twice to really understand what she is talking about.
The writing also includes a lot of imagery. Imagery which one becomes too tired to imagine and think about.
There are good points too, though! The times when Offred is actually ‘present’ in the present are the ones which are most interesting to read about. Even minute things, like the trip to the “Wall” are described interestingly. The most exciting bit for me was when the black van arrives where Ofglen and Offred had broken a rule and they both think that it has arrived to take them. The description will make your heart race!
The ending of this book leaves so many questions in the minds of the readers. “Are there any questions?” is the ironical last line of the book. You will want to shout at the top of your voice that ‘YES, THERE ARE MANY’!
The ending will leave you shocked, surprised and maybe in a coma too! Just Kidding!
Though it’s hard to loose yourself in this book, I will recommend you to read it because it is a great story and something which may become a reality. Read it because we don’t want a future like that!