The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood | Read-Along

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Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”

— Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

    Margaret Atwood wrote a devastating and greatly depressing dystopian world that begs to be taken seriously with its unprecedented ability to depict a possible and near future. Written through the eyes of a protagonist who goes by the name of Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale depicts a bleak, colourless and entrapped reality where women only have one purpose: to breed. In this totalitarian society where women are stripped of their most basic rights, individuals revert to traditional values in order to keep every single women in check. Offred, severed of her husband and child, adapts into a community where she deceptively pretends to be perfectly submissive, while her thoughts beg to differ. It is what goes on in her own mind that brings great depth and insight into this story that revolves not only around the political atmosphere of this vile reality, but the total control of sexuality. The Handmaid’s Tale easily goes down as a classic dystopian story that can be seen as being in the same vein as 1984 or Brave New World. This is a story of survival and a hunt for freedom and power, one that will jolt the dead back to life and one that will greatly touch the hearts of many, especially women.

“The writing is more than excellent with the hastiness of raw but fitting words, and a dark irony that describes an atmosphere as much vicious as distressing. I loved the use of key sentences throughout the story that forces me to take control of my rhythm, to slow down and to ponder on a problematic that is much grander and global than the one the narrator describes.”

— Trang, Co-blogger

    It’s insane how The Handmaid’s Tale presents this outrageous and mind-baffling world. The story jumps back and forth from flashback sequences to present times as seamlessly as possible. I found myself hooked by the bits and pieces of information that are given through the reconstructions of past events told by Offred. It’s getting these thin layers of information regarding how things came to be that made my reading experience so captivating and had me hungry for more. Margaret Atwood does an impeccable job at progressively unveiling the rules by which the society she creates abide by. The story easily becomes much more alarming as we slowly grasp the underlying traditions and norms that keeps these women caged within their own minds—but that’s where you quickly understand that the only safe place for these women is within their own minds. While the world binds these women within a patriarchal system, I also couldn’t help but notice an underlying matriarchal system within it that forces women to be obedient, passive and disconnected from their own bodies. The possibility that these women could ever possess anything is sacrilegious, but Offred finds ways to bypass such restrictions to the point of making it at times very woeful and staggering.

“I had an issue with the pacing. I know that it isn’t something that everyone had issues with, but I found the first 100 pages slow. It might also be due to the fact that I was reading Norse Mythology right before. The redundant elements of Offred’s day was also hard to get through. Especially in the beginning when she introduces us to her universe. Some passages seemed irrelevant, for example: ‘The bedroom is beside the bathroom.’”

— Trang, Co-blogger

    I was warned through multitudes of individuals that the writing could potentially not be my cup of tea. Surprisingly, I ended up adapting and enjoying Margaret Atwood’s style. As previously mentioned, the story is recounted by Offred as she attempts to reconstruct the life she used to live and the one she’s forced to live. Reading and writing remain forbidden in this world, as they inevitably give individuals ideas and challenges conformity. Their thoughts however remain their own, but they still have the burden to pick their words wisely when communicating with others. Their are eyes everywhere and the slightest slip could put them in jeopardy or anyone who build an alliance with her. Margaret Atwood does an unbelievable job at making certin thoughts seem so taboo, forbidden and yet so sensual. The most mundane things in our lives are exquisite and seductive in The Handmaid’s Tale. This opens our eyes at how much we take so much for granted in our every day lives. Words become weapons of mass destruction in a reality that censors them. In fact, words become a tool of power, while the bodies of these women become a political tool, one that remains disconnected from these handmaids.

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“The themes were exposed clearly, and the author, in my opinion, purposely put these elements forward. The taboo, the freedom, the rights of women, the sexuality and especially how Margaret Atwood approaches the theme of women appearance are all present.”

— Trang, Co-blogger

    There’s also another flagrant element in Margaret Atwood’s writing style that just popped into my face as I was reading: quotation marks. It’s the lack of use of these that makes the reading mysteriously confusing whenever Offred includes dialogues into her reconstruction of reality. While at first it was disconcerting and had me reading twice—I tend to read dialogues differently to the rest of the narrative—I ended up understanding its purpose; intentional, true, or not. In fact, from what I came to see, Offred uses quotation marks only for events she lives in real time, where she’d able to reproduce word for word what certain individuals, including herself, would say. However, whenever she recounts moments from the past through flashbacks, a much more hazy and obscure image is presented thanks not only to the unsettling events that take place, but also to her inability to trust her own memory. I haven’t tried to flip through the book again to make sure this is exactly what it was, but it did make a lot more sense to me. Furthermore, the writing style in the present time is very sharp on details. This is completely comprehensible when you put yourself in Offred’s shoes, a woman who’s ability to freely express herself is proscribed. Her attention to the smallest details, and her need to recount them, in a continuous, fluid and restless manner—with a unrestrained use of commas—brings you to understand the value of these simple details that we overlook on a daily basis.

“The ending was magnificent! Even if we could see a lot of similarities with 1984, I find the ending was a gift from the author. It was very uncertain, and left us to speculate about. The simple fact that she makes us question the veracity of Offred’s narrative is enough to make us doubt, but also after having been inside the head of Offred, to have lived her story, even if there were false facts, I couldn’t help myself from taking her side and to believe her. The ending is a way to team up with the narrator, which contrasts with the detached style that we’ve known since the beginning of the book.”

— Trang, Co-blogger

    Shocking to its core, the prose in The Handmaid’s Tale is breath-taking. It is a beautiful yet disgusting vision of a world where it wouldn’t take much to flip a switch and turn it into an nonviable reality. This is a very feminist-oriented tale that remains relevant even in our time and age, but will strongly connect even more with women more than men. It doesn’t shy away from its desire to bring light to possibilities and questions that have yet to know a consensus, but its power to capture such a ignoble view is what should drive everyone to give this book a shot. There is a lot to learn from this story, but Margaret Atwood definitely solidifies her position as one of the most influencing writers of all time, and one that knows how to write a story that will force you to think about  your own abilities, your own freedoms and your own existence. The Gilead is the last thing our world needs, but it’s the first thing we should all know about.


Have you started the show yet? 😉

Are you interested in The Handmaid’s Tale?

How about you read this book for yourself!
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆/

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41 thoughts on “The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood | Read-Along

  1. Marie says:

    Such a stunning review, I also love how there are both your opinion and Trang’s thanks to the little quotes! 🙂 I haven’t read this book but it sounds so powerful, like the kind of book you definitely NEED to read one day in your life 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Ohh jeez, thank you so much Marie! I’m so happy that you read and enjoyed this. We’ve approached our read-alongs that way (using quotes) just to integrate both our styles. Sometimes she’s the one who writes the reviews and I give her my thoughts, with which she puts quotes in the review. Fun stuff! The Handmaid’s Tale is definitely one of those dystopian classics that is worth checking out at least once in our lives. Hopefully you’ll give it a shot some day! 😀 Thank you again for dropping by, reading and sharing such kind words!!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marie says:

        It’s definitely a lot of fun to read a review this way – usually when there are co-bloggers, there are individual reviews, I love these kind of read-alongs 🙂
        You’re welcome! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. fictionbookdude says:

    Love love LOVE the show. Still haven’t read the book but am trying to find it somewhere! The world that Atwood created indeed is very scary and I think that it’s close to happening in our time today and that’s what makes the book and the show more appealing to people. While watching the show I was like: ‘Yep, that could definitely happen. Also yep, that too!’ Great review and I love that Trang pitched in! I’ll be looking out for your TV show review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Oh man, I can’t wait to give it a shot. I’m really curious to see how they’re going to adapt the book into the show, and how many seasons it could last. At this point, I think there’s going to be some added material, especially if they go for a lot of seasons. Thanks again for reading man! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Bookstooge says:

    The only people who this tale could happen to would be a group [and I’m talking on a national level here, not gender] who had already given up their rights and abilities to control their own destinies. In other words, Sheep.

    So for this to happen, it would have to be admitted that the majority of people in that country are too stupid, lazy and self-centred to do anything about it. Once those become a national trait, ie, giving up of responsibility, then they’ve also given up on the right of Having Rights. You don’t get to have it both ways.

    If you think this book could happen today, then that is a damning of the people for Letting it happen.

    And in all honesty, I think the majority of Americans ARE stupid, lazy and self-centred…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Bahaahha that is a very honest and pretty accurate way of seeing it. You’re right. People would have to have given up their own ability to change the fate of their people (or even themselves) for something like this story to come true. Then again, I think that if the government gets corrupted and taken over by a much stronger, discrete and unplaccable group, this story could also come to life. For example, if some sort of armed extremist group manages to seize control of the government and all its powers (especially the army) and find a way to blackmail each individual into abiding their wishes, they could definitely strip away women’s rights and make them feel irrelevant/non-existent. Slowly, they could easily establish the totalitarian regime that Atwood creates. It’s still a bit far-fetched, but you know… if an orange can be president and that he manages to surprise us on a daily basis, I wouldn’t be surprised if something like what I’m describing comes to be.

      If I try to be a bit more realist.. I also believe Atwood’s vision could happen on a smaller scale, sort of like a cult. I can’t tell if a cult can grow big enough to become widespread and establish itself in a whole country, but hey… Anything is possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Georgiana Nenciu says:

    I’ve heard only good things about Atwood’s books and I added her books on my TBR list, but this review definitely convinced me to start with The Handmaid’s Tale. First I’ll read the book, then I’ll try the show 🙂
    Georgiana

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      I’ve heard great things about Atwood’s books too! However, I’ve always wanted to read this one first, before trying out anything else she’s written, and I’m glad I did. I’m so happy to hear that you’ll be giving this a shot pretty soon too! Thank you so much for reading! I plan on checking out the show pretty soon now. Books before show/movies, right? Okay… Maybe sometimes it’s a lot harder to control the urge. 😉

      Like

  5. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    Fabulous! While I am one of those readers who struggles to connect with Atwood’s writing, I cannot deny to underlying talent and ability to weave an impactful story! This one terrified me on so many levels. I am finally starting the series this weekend. I know! Way behind haha.

    I love that you hit it off with this one so well 🙂 Splendid review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thank you so much Danielle! Always appreciate your feedback and your kind words!! ❤ Got to admit that Atwood created one ugly word in this one. Besides Hag-Seed, have you read anything else by her? Or did you give up on her and her writing style after Hag-Seed? 😛 I plan on checking out the show this week.. Hopefully.. Soo many TV shows to check out though! But man, I did read this book partly so that I could finally check out that beautiful show. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

        I admit I gave up after Hag-Seed 😦 *head hanging in shame* Between it and this one, I felt I knew enough. I could be one hundred percent wrong.

        I am on second episode of the series now. It is stressing me out!!! Seriously. I just had to pause it and walk off. So good but soooo bad if that makes sense. Terrifying. I am not surprised though. The book gave me nightmares if I remember right.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

          I can’t blame ya! You always sounded like you had HUGEEEE expectations from Atwood and her books. 😛 I’ve always wanted to read The Handmaid’s Tale as my first experience of her writing, but now that I’m done, I haven’t thought about what I should give a shot next. I know one of her books has the word Assassin in the title.. Blind Assassin? That SOUNDS really cool. 😛 Although it can be just a lure and be about something else.. completely.. hahahha

          Liked by 1 person

          • Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

            I have no idea. My time with her was brief. Just maybe skip Hag-Seed. It seemed to miss the mark even with fans. Or at least put it off for now 😉 I found it to be very dry. But maybe that is just me. I also do not fair well with Shakespeare retellings sooo..

            Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Aww, thank you so much for the kind words!! It’s definitely a classic dystopian story that should be given a shot. I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did when you get the chance to read it. The TV show adaptation of this book is a pretty good incentive to start the book now too! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thank you so muchhh!!!! ❤ I'm glad you enjoyed our read-along review. 😛 Quite saddening to hear you didn't connect with the book, but it seems like there's quite a lot of peepz who had issues with this book (or Atwood's writing in general). I did love that ending though! There's so much to ponder, and so much left in the wind regarding what might happen. Have you read anything else by Atwood? Something that you preferred a lot more than The Handmaid's Tale? I've always wanted to give this one a shot first, before exploring anything else by Atwood, but now that I finished it.. I'm not too sure which other book I should try next. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      This was in my TBR for ages too! It was the arrival of the TV show adaptation that made me want to read it ASAP, and also the fact that Trang had an extra copy to spare that made me finally read it! It’s totally worth checking out, especially if it’s something that piques your interest. Thank you so much for your kind words!! I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. LizScanlon says:

    OK… well… I had kind of made up my mind that I wasn’t going to read the book but then you lot come along with your brilliant review and now I just have to read it, don’t I? 😀 You just know what buttons to push when delivering them famous reviews of yours…
    And my, that trailer was a good one to finish with… it kind of gave me the creeps!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Oh, Liz, why ya gotta make me feel all warm and fuzzy with them kind words again?! 😛 The Handmaid’s Tale is definitely something that everyone should give a shot at least once in their lives. It seems like it’s a hit or miss for A LOT of peepz, but in the end, everyone realizes that the story is still greatly… depressing. This is one classic dystopian tale that you don’t want to see happen in real life.
      I’ve had this book in my TBR for quite some time, but when the TV show trailer came out, I just knew that I’ll be reading this really soon (finally). 😀 The vibe of it is soooo compelling. Hard to say it doesn’t look good! I’ll probably start it this week, now that I’m done with the book!
      I do hope you enjoy this if you ever decide to pick it up and try it out yourself! 😉 Thanks again Liz for reading and for all them compliments!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Peter says:

    Trang’s quotes are such a tease 😂 I want a whole review now from her now! Of course, good job on your review too, you have an amazing set of skills.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. InCaseOfBookishness says:

    I also just read this – I agree with the pacing, I struggled for the first 100 pages or so as well, but once I got into it I really enjoyed it’s flow. I feel it really added to the atmosphere. I can’t wait to watch the TV show. I’m so happy that Channel 4 have bought the rights so we can see it in the U.K.!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      It does, doesn’t it? I think I was much more tolerant with the pacing because I knew everything would find a rhythm soon enough. Glad to hear you’ll be enjoying this show pretty soon. 😀 I plan on binging and catching up the show this week! The show looks phenomenal!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Ohhw, thank you so much! ❤ If you're enjoying it so far, I think you'll be even more mind-blown by the ending! 😉 I've recently started the TV show adaptation too and..Wow! Such a stunning and fantastic adaptation. Totally worth checking it out if TV shows interest you. 😀 Thank you again for reading and stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Chris Evans says:

    Funnily enough I’ve just recently seen an advetisement for the TV adaptation which launches soon. Not sure if the Handmaid’s is something I’d be interested but I am fairly open minded and liked reading your approach to the novel Lashaan (the inclusion of Trang’s thoughts is a great way of offering a complementary perspective) given your initial trepidations.

    To be honest I wish I could make more time for reading stuff that’s a little outside my usual ‘zone’ but there’s just so much to discover!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Yeah, I heard it was just getting released/about to in the U.K., while we’ve already got most of the episodes out here (7 out of 10 or so). The Handmaid’s tale is a classic dystopian tale that delves out some very thought-provoking content onto readers. I’ve been meaning to read it for a very long time since I have a hard time saying no to classics. 😀 It was just so timely that they were producing a TV show based on it which only made me want to read it that much sooner. I totally hear ya’ on the whole time to read.. got to be pretty selective with how little time we got after all! You could always try the show first though. It is an EXCELLENT adaptation of the book, with its own little twists. Some events in the books have been chronologically altered to make it work on screen, but all the main themes are kept in the show. I don’t think they’re going to keep the same ending of the book for the show though, especially when I feel like they’ve almost went through the whole book with 7 out of 10 episodes, when there’s probably going to be more seasons to come.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts man, I definitely appreciate it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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