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 fertility, 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…
I was stunned. Dystopian novels are typically not my favorite genre, but this one felt too real, too plausible, believable and futuristic. Everything from the names of the Handmaids (Offred meaning “Of Fred” or “Property of Fred”) to the descriptions of the setting (red brick walls, large football stadium, classrooms, dormitories, everything pointing to an abandoned Harvard), to the backwards and seemingly reasonable feminism left me reeling.
While reading, I noticed I was most intrigued by the writing style. The reader can become completely absorbed in the tales Offred is telling, and yet nothing about these tales is remarkable. She is merely describing ordinary life. And yet, to the reader, this is not ordinary life at all – there is something completely wrong under the surface.
Heated topics could be discussed with this book: feminism, women’s rights, sexual freedom or lack thereof. This novel is a warning. I was hesitant to begin the novel, and now I’m hesitant to write a proper review. Words cannot describe my racing thoughts at the close of the final page.
Rating: ★★★★ of 5
GoodReads: 3.95 of 5