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Friday, July 14, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale

My curiosity got the better of me when I began to see all the ads for the streaming televised version of  Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale (#675), so I borrowed a copy from the library to read.  Although the series was critically acclaimed, I must admit much of what I glimpsed in the ads for the series  bore no resemblance to what I read.

I might as well say right up front that I did not care for this book.  It was disturbing on one level because of the resemblance of the theocracy which governs The Republic of Gilead to the current political climate in Washington.  Many of those in power would rejoice to see similar reforms, I fear.  But I can see why this book was so popular when it was first published: the mockery of established religions, the parodying of nuns' traditional habits in service of the fertility goals of the government, and the hinted-at cause of the crisis -the thoughtless destruction of the environment and women's control over their own bodies - would win over a large audience.  Not that I disagree with the last two points, but I do find the turn it takes in Ms. Atwood's narrative ludicrous.  It also bothers me that Offred's (We never do learn her name from "before".) location is eventually revealed to be Cambridge, Mass yet the details don't add up here.  Why bother with a real place in a story like this if you can't bother to get the small things right?  Spoiler alert: Offred doesn't know at the end if she is doomed or delivered, but her own narration of events ends there, which would have been troubling, but understandable in its own way.  But here, Ms. Atwood suddenly swerves to a pseudo-scientific analysis of Offred's narration at an academic conference far in the future where every aspect of it is picked apart as dry history.  I found it very jarring, and another reason why I did not like this book.  Oh, well.  To each his own.  I just wonder why they bothered to film The Handmaid's Tale  now.  A rather curious lapse of time since it first came out, I think.

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