Anne Bonny #BookReview The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 5* Genius #VintageClassics #HandmaidsTale #PraiseBe #BlessedBeTheFruit #UnderHisEye @vintagebooks

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My own copy

‘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.

Masterfully conceived and executed, this haunting vision of the future places Margaret Atwood at the forefront of dystopian fiction.

My Review:

I am currently making my way through season two of the TV series. I am feeling more and more disturbed with every episode. One night in particular, I had a nightmare in which I was in the full red dress and bonnet!!!! Now if this isn’t scary enough, I was burying my books. As a woman, I was no longer allowed to read! Oh, the sheer horror!!!!!
After this unsettling night’s sleep I decided I simply HAD to read the novel and know the how/what/when/where.
What I found is an in-depth novel that I digested in five straight hours. I was horrified and scared, yet I couldn’t take my eyes away from the pages.
Margaret Atwood is one impressive author.

‘They’ve removed anything you could tie a rope to’

The entire narrative is from Offred’s perspective. For which she is Offred, not June. We meet fellow handmaid’s Alma, Janine, Dolores and Moira. All of which go on to take their commanders names, as June has Of-Fred. The handmaid’s lifestyle is bleak, terrifying and at times depressing for the reader. It shows a lifestyle that would strike fear into most women.

‘A return to traditional values’

Offred is at her third house, the home of former gospel singer Serena Joy. We are introduced to the ‘Martha’s’ in the kitchen Rita and Cora. Martha’s are infertile women of low status. We also meet the homes guardian Nick who also has a relatively low status. But who regularly crosses the line with Offred via way of winks and eye contact. Which leads her to ponder if he is ‘an eye’ a type of informant to the Republic of Gilead. At her time at the house Offred dreams of escape, but just what kind of escape is left open to interpretation. . . .

‘It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge’

Offred is partnered with Ofglen for her only luxury of a simple walk to the shops. The often take walks to ‘the wall’ where traitors of the regime hang for all to see. Eventually it is through these meetings that we learn of the plight of others. Such as, Ofwarren (Janine) who is now heavily pregnant. The indoctrinate of Aunt Lydia has had the largest impact on Janine’s psychology. She is well and truly a programmed Handmaid.
On their journey back the girls are accosted by Japanese tourists, hoping for a picture of the famous handmaid’s. Offred and Ofglen are shocked to see women dressed as they once did in their past lives. It reminds them how much their lives have changed.

Through the narrative we learn of ‘gender treachery’ aka being homosexual. That unwomen are sent to the colonies, which is a death sentence of hard labour. We also learn that only 1/4 babies are born an unbaby. That this is due to the high levels of pollution, that caused the situation of infertility in the first place.

‘It’s not the husbands you have to watch out for, said Aunt Lydia, it’s the wives’

Serena Joy (Pam) used to enjoy giving speeches on the ‘sanctity of home’. Now she finds herself a prisoner to a regime of her own making. Although she enjoys a much higher status than Offred. She is still a woman and therefore sanctioned as so.

Offred must endure monthly obligatory tests which include urine, hormones, cancer smear and blood tests. In Gilead there is no such thing as sterile men. There are only fruitful women and barren women. It is a regime designed around female control and male dominance. A regime for which I am sure, I couldn’t last the week.
But the will to survive is human trait.

‘Sanity is a valuable possession’

Offred reflects upon and longs for her daughter. We are unaware of Offred’s full background. But we know that her daughter was 5yrs old when taken and now must be approximately 8yrs old. Offred longs for news of her child and this will provide an emotional pull, for all mother’s who read this novel. To be stripped of your rights as a woman, human being and mother. Is a life truly unworth living.

There is a particular scene at the red centre (handmaid training facility) where Janine must take part in ‘testifying’ she must go into personal details of her past. Her gang rape and subsequent abortion. It is a harrowing scene. You come to understand how her fragile mind could be easily manipulated, with just the right amount of human despair and suffering administered.

‘Love is not the point’ – Aunt Lydia

The Gileadean regime is explored in a much different way than the TV series. At times it feels more personal and harrowing as the voice of Offred infects your inner most thoughts. Yet the visuals from the TV series really add the sense of realism. As we watch this insane regime brought to life.

I can easily see why this is a classic novel and I am glad that due to the TV series adaption more and more modern women and women of future generations will read/watch and listen. I was only 2yrs old when this novel was first published, and it’ll be one I will NEVER forget!
5* Genius

‘I wish I was ignorant,
so I didn’t know how ignorant I am’

Margaret Atwood

#Review 4* Hag-Seed by @MargaretAtwood @PenguinRHUK #LiteraryFiction #HogarthShakespeare

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Selected as a Book of the Year – Observer, Sunday Times, Times, Guardian, i magazine

Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other. It will boost his reputation. It will heal emotional wounds.

Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. Also brewing revenge.

After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?

My review:

Before I write this review, I have a little confession to make. Well actually two confessions. Firstly, this is my first book read, by Margaret Atwood. I know, I am ashamed of myself! But to be fair, I didn’t discover Steven King until my 20s! Secondly, I have not read The Tempest by William Shakespeare, of which the novel is largely based. The only Shakespeare, I have read is Romeo And Juliet & Macbeth. These being from my school days! There we go, Abby leaves confessional!

The novel opens with Felix, the artistic director of the Makeshiweg festival, being betrayed and uprooted from his position. I would like to say this is the only emotional pain in Felix’s life, but sadly it is not. Having lost his wife in childbirth and daughter 3 years later to meningitis. Felix is in deep emotional pain.
He vows revenge upon Tony, whom has betrayed him!

“Tony and Sal must suffer”

Felix packs up his belongings and retreats to a shanty cottage in the woods. Where he remains in exile for quite sometime…. Whilst in exile he begins to have delusions of his daughter. They empower him to seek vengeance and Felix becomes an internet stalker, of the men who have wronged him. On year nine of exile, he applies for a job at the Fletcher Correctional facility. Under the secret identity of Mr Duke, he applies for the role of running the literacy program delivered to the inmates.

Felix is accepted for the position and his role involved assignments and producing a play. Of which he chooses The Tempest, guiding and aiding the inmates to fully understand the play. I found Felix to be charismatic yet troubled and charming and likable. I began to root for Felix on his journey towards revenge. By running the program Felix meets new people, who improve his life and help him heal.
But not before he has, had his revenge……

I really enjoyed this novel and can see the huge appeal of the book to book groups. There is room for the debate of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and also the character is Felix and what guides his vendetta. I really enjoyed how cleverly written the novel is and I look forward to The Handmaids tale, which is also on my book shelves! 4*

Margaret Atwood
Authors Links:
Twitter: @MargaretAtwood