“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
(First publication: 1985 / This edition: Vintage Books 2010)
Taken with red orchids
Nolite te bastardes carborundorum
Hard to explain how I feel about this book. I just finished it yesterday on the commute to work. I got this book a few months ago actually—but just didn’t feel a “strong urge” to read it until just a few days ago. I guess the whole “dystopia” vibe kind of kept me putting it off, even though I felt like this is a “must-read”.
Did I find it a fun read? — Yes and no.
Did I find it exciting? — Yes and no.
Did I enjoy reading this book? — Yes and no.
Did I find it mind-blowing? — ….No.
Am I disappointed with the book? — Yes and no.
I won’t get into the whole political issues of it, but yes, it’s about a dystopian world set in the supposedly-near future where women have no rights at all and their only purpose in life is to breed. If they fail, they have no purpose so they get killed or get sent somewhere to die.
So why do I feel so “yes and no” about this book? I think it’s mainly because for the first hundred pages or so, I barely understood anything that was going on. I get it that it’s a “whole new society” that I kind of have to learn about fast and absorb it and just flow, but I just felt so lost. I kept thinking after every ten pages whether I should just give up on the book because I felt like I was reading more and more dystopian gibberish and I won’t ever understand what the “dystopian” part/setting is all about, nevermind what the plot is.
Even after a hundred pages in and I felt like I was finally about to “grasp” this dystopian world, there would always be new concepts and new rules and new rituals introduced that made me feel like the narrator was purposely trying to keep me in the dark.
I guess that’s why I couldn’t really enjoy the story. For me, it was just reading 300+ pages with a huge question mark blinking in my mind.
Also, I finished the book with a lot of questions unanswered—like, what exactly happened that made the society suddenly all “dystopian”-like? And why was it so sudden? And how come “Japanese tourists showing their legs” are allowed to walk in, when it’s even forbidden for a man to look at a woman in the eye? And how can people seem to be so “brain-washed” overnight—but then there’s a few that aren’t?
And I guess the biggest question would be: What kind of ending was that?
I was more confused than ever at the end, and read some articles online about it. Turns out it’s supposed to determine whether you’re an “optimist” (and thinks that she was able to escape) or a “pessimist” (and thinks that she was taken to be killed). But I didn’t want to leave feeling even more confused and then having to question whether I think she’s gonna live happily ever or if I’m a negative, depressing, hopeless person—I just wanted answers to all those questions I had been stacking up.
I feel like I’m ranting, ranting, ranting now…
Like Patti Smith said in her book “M Train”:
“I have always hated loose ends. Dangling phrases, unopened packages, or a character that inexplicably disappears, like a lone sheet on a clothesline before a vague storm, left to flap in the wind until that same wind carries it away to become the skin of a ghost or a child’s tent.
If I read a book or see a film and some seemingly insignificant thing is left unresolved, I can get unremarkably unsettled, going back and forth and looking for clues or wishing I had a number to call or that I could writer someone a letter. Not to complain, but just to request clarification or to answer a ew questions, so I can concentrate on other things.”
So would I recommend this to people? — Yes and no.
Yes, if you want to read a contemporary classic and if you want to read something that’s kind of political and feminist.
No, if you don’t like weird sentence structures (and excuse this post) and if you don’t like depressing and suffocating (and confusing) stories.
I woke up this morning (November 14, 2015) to see news all over my Facebook about the tragedy in Paris. My heart goes out to the people and the city. Orwell, Huxley, Atwood… We’re living in a dystopian world today. #PrayforParis
When we think of the past it’s the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that. (pg.40)
Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind. (pg.135)
Don’t let the bastards grind you down. (pg.197)