The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
Reading Challenge Category: A book adapted into a TV series
‘I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.’ Offred is a Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. She is placed in the household of The Commander, Fred Waterford – her assigned name, Offred, means ‘of Fred’. She has only one function: to breed. If Offred refuses to enter into sexual servitude to repopulate a devastated world, she will be hanged. Yet even a repressive state cannot eradicate hope and desire. As she recalls her pre-revolution life in flashbacks, Offred must navigate through the terrifying landscape of torture and persecution in the present day, and between two men upon which her future hangs.
I had a headache the other night, and it was too bad to read, so I decided to find one of the books on my reading challenge to listen to as an audiobook. This meant I could just lie in a dark room and let someone else tell me the story. The Handmaid’s Tale was chosen as I really liked the soothing voice of Elizabeth Moss that was narrating it. She really captures the innocence and placidity of the character in her voice. I’m glad I chose this one as an audiobook as it is in the first person, so I feel like the narrator is really telling you what is happening, it feels like you are being whispered to and all her secrets are being spilt. She even says that she is telling you this story and she hopes you will tell her yours one day! I think if I’d have read this in a conventional way this wouldn’t have felt so special. Even though, I enjoyed the audiobook of this, half of me wishes I had just read it as I was enjoying it so much but didn’t have as much time for an audiobook as I would have had for a real book and then I could have read it faster. I know you can speed up the speech, but this would have spoiled the calming tone that it was read in, the whispered speech needed to be at normal speed and not sped up. The story itself was fascinating and horrifying. As a childless woman who doesn’t want children, the thought of that being my entire purpose in life really frightened me. The idea of having to endure a random male impregnating me as part of a ‘ceremony’ and then being discarded after I’ve provided what they need is just barbaric. I wish there had been a few more details on why the world was like this, why old couples suffering from arthritis and were obviously not in their prime wanted a child. I felt like I was missing a lot of the back story. I know little bits were fed to us from Offred’s memory, but I wanted more. I’m hoping the TV series might fill in some of the gaps, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Elisabeth Moss is the starting role. I had worried that when I came to watch it that it would be weird Offred having a different ‘voice’, but she won’t! I’m really looking forward to watching this now, and I am glad I read the book first. I was very shocked by the abrupt ending; it came out of nowhere, especially as the timer on the book said I had another 30 odd minutes left to go. I was left lying there thinking “but but…. why, what??” I know this is the point of the ending you aren’t supposed to know everything, but it left me very frustrated with a million questions. Roll on the 10th September when book two is released!
Listen to it on audiobook: