So I’ve wanted to read this book for years. No, I correct that statement, I’ve wanted to have read this book for years. I wanted it DONE. FINISHED. OVER. I want to KNOW WHAT IT’S ABOUT but I certainly didn’t want to fucking read it.
I’ve tried though. I bought it no less than three times, inevitably giving it back to Value Village every time. I’ve had it on my shelf for years. I’ve even given it a good college try: I read and re-read the opening scene where the unnamed author describes a sad, small room in great detail — but this is usually where I tap out.
But not this time, motherfuckers! I did it! I finished this stupid modern literary classic, and now I’m officially part of the “I’ve Read the Handmaid’s Tale, Haven’t You? Club”. It’s an elite club, and our quarterly meetings are insufferably pretentious.
With the Hulu series coming out (and it just looks so darn titillating!) I figured I should finally plow through this book. I mean, it’s not that long! I can do it!
And do it I did. But it’s not necessarily the world’s easiest read. When shit is actually happening in the book, it’s really interesting! Because it’s dystopian, and it’s weird, and you’re given no formal introduction into the world. You’re just chillin’ with this sad lady and you kinda figure out the society as the book goes along.
But half of the book is not so fun. Half of it is maudlin, meandering prose that feels intentionally frustrating. Which could totally just be part of the dystopian aesthetic, but that doesn’t make it any fucking less annoying to read. There were several points where I just threw the book down and I yelled to the heavens, “Margaret Atwood, you pull your head out of your ass right now and finish this book!”
There are a lot of parallels between this book’s crazy ass world and our current one. The moralistic and religious justifications for the insane society, the utilization and then disregard of policy in order to control people, the subtle manipulation of power and pride… it was all pretty interesting stuff. But, like, after the fact. Because reading it was mostly a big ol’ bummer.
I’m looking forward to the television show. I’m hoping this classic-turned-series is more engaging than the recent Man in the High Castle nonsense. But overall I’m glad I read this book. Well, I’m glad I have read it.
9/10 for making me think.
3/10 for being annoying for long stretches
10/10 for the ability to now interject “you remember, in the Handmaid’s Tale…” into everyday conversations, like an annoying asshat.