The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood |  Fiction


At first, I was chastising myself for not reading this 1986 classic sooner.  And then I arrived at page 93, Chapter 16, when the Commander and the Handmaid have sex and I discovered that image had been carved by a wood burner into my memory.  I realized I had read The Handmaid's Tale before.  But I recalled little and was inspired to continue reading it again.

Briefly, the story — there has been a cultural and social revolution resulting in civil wars and a totalitarian society in Gilead. This is a dystopian novel of what happens to the women, especially, when roles are proscribed and freedoms removed and families broken up, and tolerance disavowed.

No surprise, Atwood’s writing is exquisite and powerful.  Our narrator, one such Handmaid, whose primary job is to bear a child for her Commander and his Wife, weaves the story of her past into the telling of her present life.  As with any dystopian novel, it caused me to wonder ... could we fall victim to such a regime; such a cultural shift?  And to what extent have we already, without realizing it?

If you haven’t read this, you owe it to yourself.  If you've read it decades ago, consider rereading.

And my burning question is ... have you seen the television series?  How is it?  Should I track it down?


10 responses on “The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. Deby

    I don’t know about the recent series, but the 1990 movie starring Faye Dunaway, Elizabeth McGovern, Robert Duvall, & others is worth watching.

  2. Mary K Crawford

    My book club read this last fall. I had attempted it a couple of times years ago but never got very far. I stuck with it and was glad I did. Yes, it certainly causes one to think and reflect on events taking place today. I’ve never seen the movie version or the recent TV series.

    I am not an Atwood fan. I’ve tried other of her books and just can’t get into them. Honestly, if it hadn’t been a book club book, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. There is something about her writing style that just doesn’t pull me in.

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      How great, Mary, that we have differing views of this book! We often see eye-to-eye! Can you put words to what you don’t like about Atwood’s style? I am curious!

      1. Mary C Crawford

        Looking through my reading journal, I find I didn’t leave any notes about this book. My first issue with this book is its genre – dystopian fiction. Call me Pollyanna but I just can’t accept that the future will be so sad and dark. Yes, it is fiction but to even dream the future 50, 100, 200 years from now will be as depicted here is a turn-off for me. Second, I find Atwood’s writing (I’ve tried others) is too ‘wordy’. Too dense, too intense. Just say it, woman, and then move on with story. This said, I am glad I read it for book club. We had good discussion (most liked, a few didn’t, a couple just couldn’t make it to the end). I found the ideas Atwood presented to be thought-worthy and timeless.

        1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

          Thanks, Mary, for taking the time to post your thoughts. I love hearing what you think and notice and feel!

          I have an attraction to dystopian novels. Can;t stand a horror book, but give ma a dystopia any day!

  3. Janet

    It is worth it to track down the new television series. I watched it last summer while visiting family in California. After the first episode, I thought I wouldn’t be able to stand it given our current political trauma but I stuck with it and was glad I did. It ain’t uplifting but the acting is superb.
    Apparently there is a season 2 out now which is a continuation of the concept but it goes beyond the book since season 1 ended exactly where the book ends. I haven’t seen it, yet.
    Speaking of interesting television, have you seen Killing Eve on BBC America? Pretty much all the main characters along with the writer and others are women.
    My new conspiracy theory is that with all the shows streaming on television and the gradual legalization of marijuana, the oligarchy wants to keep us in a haze so we don’t pay attention to the mess the country is in.

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      I like your theory. Makes sense.
      I will track down the tv series and try it out.

  4. Sigal

    Hi Andrea,

    I’ve been told by someone whose opinion I greatly value that th series is very good. I’m going to watch it too.

    Just wondering: have you read The Glass Castle? Not similar to Handmaid’s Tale but also made into a movie. Please read the book before you see the movie.