Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

4:34 PM

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood | Rating:  ★★★★★

“Night falls. Or has fallen. Why is it that night falls, instead of rising, like the dawn? Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting into the sky, up from the horizon, like a black sun behind cloud cover. Like smoke from an unseen fire, a line of fire just below the horizon, brushfire or a burning city. Maybe night falls because it’s heavy, a thick curtain pulled up over the eyes. Wool blanket.”

There are times when I think about the first time I read The Handmaid's Tale: I had lukewarm feelings towards it. The ground didn't move nor break when I closed it for good that first visit. But the thing about timing is that it really is everything. I was a teenager, then. The Handmaid's Tale isn't necessarily something that would be beyond the realm of one teenagers standing. For many reasons, it did not connect with me. I enjoyed it. It tripped me out. Mostly, it made me frightened of the future because--well--the way it has aged, always feels parallel and relevant to our social climate.

The second time I read it, I felt more passionate towards it. It moved me. It startled me. My mind was off the charts well into this reprise. I was still a teenager then, just nearing my 20th birthday. I remember thinking, again, how relevant it remained. How real it felt even in its most surreal moments. I was bothered by the lack of history in this world on display, but for the most part, it struck a deeper cord on me than that first read.
Margaret Atwood has this way with her; her novels remain crisp with age, somehow, resonating with her audience and carving out that place in the classics we already know she's earned. She's the type of author you read once and just know.

Now, during the third time I've read it, I find myself--in my mid-twenties--even more captivated, moved, horrified and chilled. The Handmaid's Tale lifts you up only to crash you down to the bottom of the barrel. The older you get, the longer time passes, the more you feel it. I had very few tabs in my nifty copy when I picked it up again, only to find that the entire thing was filled with notes and highlights by the end. Something about the echos of the past and our present state in modern times really, really connected me to the story this time around. I thought, wow, this is one of my favourite books of all times.

It's definitely not without flaws. I still found the lack of history, of background, a bit frustrating. I don't think it takes away from the general theme of things, though, and felt like its entirety served up a serious purpose. The story haunts you from start to finish and once it grips you, you're never free of it. I'm back to this place where I have a serious book hangover. I can't shake Offred. Or Moira. Or... anyone. And, I honestly don't want to.

A part of me will always be curious of what happens next. Where their society goes. How it was made. But an even bigger part of me was far more satisfying with the open ending. Lacking of conclusions can be bothersome but in the case of The Handmaid's Tale it makes the story even more heart wrenching and keeps it at the back of your mind. Ending it any other way would have only felt like an end-note.

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