Thursday, May 16, 2019

A very-belated post re "The Handmaid's Tale," by Margaret Atwood

Back in the days before I started posting on Goodreads, I used to keep records of books that I'd read in a Word file.  I'm not sure this passes for a book review, but here it is (SPOILER ALERT):

8/7/2001               The Handmaid’s Tale              Margaret Atwood                      A real page-turner—I picked this up at the library at about 6 PM 8/6 & finished it 8/7 at 3 AM.  A religious cult gains control of a portion of the US, &, in a world in which all money changes hands thru 1 centralized computerized bank, instantly reduces all women to men’s property by confiscating all of their financial assets and turning them over to the women’s male relatives or husbands, and having all women in their jurisdiction fired, all on the same day.  From that day on, women are forbidden to have independent incomes. Since very few women are fertile (and the men ain’t doing much better), high-status men, called Commanders, whose Wives don’t have children (officially, only women are sterile) are given Handmaids to bear them children.  The Handmaids, in red uniforms, are allowed to leave the house only 1x/day to go shopping.  Otherwise, they can do absolutely nothing but sit in their rooms and stare at the walls.  They may watch only ½ hr. of religious TV/mo., and there’s no longer such a thing as movies.  Reading is strictly forbidden for almost all women—a woman caught reading 3 times has her hand cut off.  No one is allowed to have sex in any form outside of marriage.  (Unmarried men are even forbidden to keep their hands in their pockets, for fear of what they’ll do with them there.)  Useful women who aren’t Wives but who can’t bear children are enslaved as Marthas (live-in servants).  Women of uncertain fertility (?) or lower-class women (?) are distributed to lower-echelon men as Econowives (all-purpose wives who do the Marthas’ chores and the Handmaid’s childbearing).  Women who aren’t considered useful (such as seniors), Handmaids who fail to bear healthy children after 3 attempts, anyone who is considered subversive, and Gender Traitors (homosexuals) are killed or sent to the Colonies to be worked to death cleaning up toxic waste.  Marthas are afraid to take days off for any illness whatsoever, or even to show or admit that they’re ill, for fear that they’ll be sent to the Colonies.  Scary reading.

I've never seen the television show.  The book was frightening enough.  If you'd like to understand why I'm publishing this review at this late date, see my next post.


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