Probably like you, I grew intensely interested in this book after watching the first season of the Hulu adaptation. Though it’s been available since 1985, I regret to reveal that I only recently sat down and read it.
As you no doubt suspect, it absolutely lives up to its reputation. My only disappointment lies in the fact that the Hulu series is so true to the novel that there isn’t much in the way of “surprise.”
Until the end, that is.
The last ten pages of the book absolutely riveted me. I did not anticipate the drastic change in direction, but I found it completely appropriate and, when compared to the ambiguous nature of the exterior world surrounding Offred, satisfying.
If you are unfamiliar with general plot of the novel, it occurs in the near future. The east coast (and maybe more) of the United States has been overrun by an ultra conservative religious group that picks and chooses Scripture to interpret literally. Because sterility plagues the country, the commanders of this new order, and their wives, are allowed a “Handmaid,” which is a fertile woman forced into servitude. She is there to copulate with the commander for the sole purpose of providing a child.
The story is told from Offred’s perspective, the Handmaid belonging to the commander known as Fred. We learn snippets of her present as well as the history of her past. The fall of our civilization as we know it, while brief and segmented in the novel, is horrifying nonetheless.
This new regime takes it upon themselves to terminate intellectuals, free thinkers, and anyone that does not adhere to their ideologies. Women are objectified and rendered powerless, all in the name of Scripture. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the commanders in the novel are blatant in committing “sin” without fear of reprisal. They bask in it–in fact, they celebrate it among one another.
Most disturbing, however, is the fact that the last ten pages gloss over all of this travesty. Without spoiling too much, these grievous violations are looked upon as a means to an end, an uncomfortable moment in history. All is well, and so thus we mustn’t worry too much about what happened in the past, no matter how terrible.
My fear is that this book is prophetic. In this day and age, it certainly seems so. It is warning us about how quickly it can all fall apart.
(Did you enjoy this review? Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)