Review: The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Rating: 3 out of 5

I have two distinctly different opinions about this work: I found the first two fifths of it dull; it was more or less at the end of this part when something finally ‘happened’ and the pace of events quickened. The latter three fifths were far more enjoyable, and the epilogue the most enjoyable of all—though I’m not going to ruin that surprise for anyone.

I can see why people would have vastly different opinions to me about the first half of the book (and, indeed the second). What made it so difficult for me to get through was the slow, introspective mood which described what was happening in today’s world, but not how or why events had reached that stage. The reader isn’t introduced to the complexity of the Gileadean society in a meaningful way which makes comprehension very difficult.

Once events start passing faster, introductions come naturally. In this part, the reader is able to both understand the society’s ‘then’ as well as how events led up to ‘then’. This makes for a chilling—and, yet, not unbelievable—narrative. The story of how the country descended into what it was is the most important warning, though I believe Ms Atwood herself insists that one shouldn’t read the book in that way.

Overall, I’m not sure of my overall mood with regards to this. I would have rated it lower had I not found the book to pick up remarkably with respect to how it started. Yet, I’m not so far as to recommend this book for its style or content if one hasn’t been drawn towards it thus far.

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