A Reader Opines: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Atwood_Handmaid

Published: March 16th 1998 by Anchor Books (first published 1985)
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Margaret Atwood is one of those authors — critically acclaimed, proficient and almost everyone has heard her name whether they’ve read her work or not. I was an Atwood virgin until recently. My introduction to her talent came through The Handmaid’s Tale.

Blurb taken from Goodreads:

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 births, 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 fell into the story with ease and loved being exposed to Margaret Atwood’s brilliant command of language. The characters became real as my emotions tangled with theirs. The story unfurled like one of those military flags they hand to grieving widows and mothers, with a hint of something beyond our reach scattering from the folds like sand. The pivotal scenes were paced perfectly, revealing information only after I began to long for it and setting me up for another, more complicated event.

Sounds like an amazing book, doesn’t it? It is, until the climax.

As I read, my subconscious was saying this is a five star book. I was enamored with the language and engrossed in the story. But the climax left me wanting. There is no resolution, at least not a satisfying one. New authors would never get away with what Margaret Atwood has been praised for and that angered me. Having been taught that a story needs setup, conflict and resolution, I felt The Handmaid’s Tale cheated me.

That I feel so passionate about it validates Atwood’s talent. She masterfully manipulated me into caring with beautiful sentences, enigmatic characters and a compelling story. However, she left me feeling like a child whose goldfish disappeared, never knowing why or how.

Do I believe this book is worth reading? Definitely. It has much to offer. Do I believe readers will love it? Most assuredly. My reasons for giving The Handmaid’s Tale three stars instead of five emanate from my querulous idiosyncrasies.

This review first published at Invincible Love of Reading.

Purchase The Handmaid’s Tale:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Indie Bound
Thriftbooks

Missy does not participate in any affiliate programs and receives no compensation from the sale of this book.

  • I loved The Handmaid’s Tale! I can totally understand why you felt “left hanging” by the climax, but I liked her choices, and the very last chapter (that some people miss because it looks like it’s not actually part of the book) really sold me on it all.

    • Like I told mooderino, the last chapter was kind of ingenious. Looking back on the story from a historical, anthropological and archaeological point of view, far removed from the events was inspiring. But as a reader, having all the pieces of a puzzle laid out for me and then the author deliberately holds back the final piece hit me wrong. I looked at my mom and told her I’m angry – though not so politely. I don’t need endings tied up in pretty bows, but a resolution would be nice. 😉

  • I loved The Handmaid’s Tale! I can totally understand why you felt “left hanging” by the climax, but I liked her choices, and the very last chapter (that some people miss because it looks like it’s not actually part of the book) really sold me on it all.

    • Like I told mooderino, the last chapter was kind of ingenious. Looking back on the story from a historical, anthropological and archaeological point of view, far removed from the events was inspiring. But as a reader, having all the pieces of a puzzle laid out for me and then the author deliberately holds back the final piece hit me wrong. I looked at my mom and told her I’m angry – though not so politely. I don’t need endings tied up in pretty bows, but a resolution would be nice. 😉

  • mooderino

    I get frustrated by weak or open endings too. Usually means the writer couldn’t come up with anything better.

    mood

    • I don’t think the ending was weak, in fact it was kind of ingenious. I felt that the author was leading to something then left us out of the resolution.

  • mooderino

    I get frustrated by weak or open endings too. Usually means the writer couldn’t come up with anything better.

    mood

    • I loved The Handmaid’s Tale! I can totally understand why you felt “left hanging” by the climax, but I liked her choices, and the very last chapter (that some people miss because it looks like it’s not actually part of the book) really sold me on it all.

      • Like I told mooderino, the last chapter was kind of ingenious. Looking back on the story from a historical, anthropological and archaeological point of view, far removed from the events was inspiring. But as a reader, having all the pieces of a puzzle laid out for me and then the author deliberately holds back the final piece hit me wrong. I looked at my mom and told her I’m angry – though not so politely. I don’t need endings tied up in pretty bows, but a resolution would be nice. 😉

    • I don’t think the ending was weak, in fact it was kind of ingenious. I felt that the author was leading to something then left us out of the resolution.

  • mooderino

    I get frustrated by weak or open endings too. Usually means the writer couldn’t come up with anything better.

    mood

    • I don’t think the ending was weak, in fact it was kind of ingenious. I felt that the author was leading to something then left us out of the resolution.