The Handmaid's Tale
I ordered The Handmaid's Tale last year after talking with my best friends boyfriend at their apartment one day. We were talking about books, specifically dystopian future novels, and he asked if I had read it (I hadn't), and that I should because I would like it (I would).
(I read an article once about why people like dystopian stories so much. I think it has to do with having an escape from our own lives in the sense that, when you come back to reality, you realize you have everything going quite well for you. I pretty much still have all of my rights and freedoms, so I'm good!)
So I finally got around to opening it up (better late than never, right?), and I polished it off in a week! It normally takes me a long time to read books, no matter how interested in them I am, I just get distracted, so it can be daunting to start.
But I honestly couldn't even put this one down, so you know it was good.
The story is told through the eyes of Offred (not her real name), a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead (formerly known as the United States of America). After all of congress and the government has been overthrown, the country is now a totalitarian state.
Birth rates are dangerously low and many women have trouble conceiving, so handmaids (the few women left who are fertile) live with Commander's (high ranking men) and their wives. Every month, when she is at peak fertility, Offred has very impersonal sex with her Commander while his wife holds her wrists. Purely for reproductive purposes.
The handmaids have few rights and freedoms, they're allowed out for shopping once a day with another handmaid (they must travel in pairs), and the Eyes (secret police force) keep watch on everything.
All of this after just a couple years ago living a normal life in modern day America with her husband and child, who have been taken away, or killed.
It's a terrifying and sad portrayal of how things could look under the proper circumstances. Hopefully it'll never even come close to that, but it really is an excellent read.
I started watching the show at the same time because it also looked really well done, but I tried to finish the book first so I wouldn't be spoiled. Success!
One chapter/scene in particular that strikes me is when all the handmaids are summoned to the home of another Commander, as his handmaid is giving birth.
It's a joyous occasion, but definitely creepy as the wife pretends she is in labour as well, with all the other wives encouraging her, "breathe, breathe".
The handmaids are the ones who help Ofwarren give birth, and for a few moments there, when everyone waits for the baby to take it's first breath, it all seems normal.
It felt like a room full of women at any birth, just happy that there is a healthy baby in their presence! This is the whole reason they're doing what they are, to bring new life forward!
And then after, when the cord is cut, the first arms that hold the baby are not her mother's, but instead those of the wife. And it's heartbreaking all over again.
I did enjoy when they were all going back to their homes in the birth mobile, how sleepy but peaceful/hopeful the handmaids look. The birth hangover is a real thing!
I just really enjoyed this book, and I'm really liking the show as well. If anyone wants to discuss it with me please feel free! I would love that!
Very highly recommend!