The Handmaiden’s Tale – A review

This distopian tale is an unsatisfying story. I feel as though I’ve been preached to, without a solution offered or any redemption possible.

Society’s downfall is brought about by the excesses of modern living in America: nuclear waste, consumerism, freedoms, literacy, contraceptive use by the white population, insecticides, abortion issues, biological hazards, and Playboy bunnies.
Those excesses were precursors to a time when it became necessary to cleanse society by shooting every government official, enslaving every woman, and crushing every man who did not follow the dictates of the murderous and inevitable elite. Very Hitler-like.

One must wade through and decipher the narrator’s snipped, conflicting, secretive, and jumbled memories to find that a brutal regime, disguised as a new religion, too easily took control of every aspect of daily life.

It seems odd that Canada and England were the safe havens, though maybe not, to which the very few rebels might flee. I believe the author’s political bent is showing.

This would be a good selection for a book-discussion group because it riles one up. It hits on so many hot buttons . . . Boat loads of Jews are thrown into the sea. Catholic priests and Baptists are hung on a public wall. Fertile women are assigned to elite men and their wives while older women or malcontents are sent to clean up nuclear waste sites. Deformed babies are “shredders.” No one speaks openly and everyone spies on everyone. Yet, the elite still have their luxuries, private clubs, and vices. Much to discuss.

The last chapter is from the perspective a scholar, 150 years in the future, looking back at the Handmaiden’s time in history. I suspect this chapter, my favorite, was added as an afterthought, to appease early readers or editors, to give a hint of hope. The story would have been better if that perspective was used at the beginning, making the scholar a kind of hero who digs up truth.

The Handmaiden’s Tale, written in 1987,  has been given new life as a series on Hulu. It will be difficult to watch, but I will search for it in the hope that the screen writers create a few heroes, brought more humanity to the characters, and maybe threw in a little hope and a more satisfactory end.

 

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