Good morning and welcome to our 7th Book Club meet-up.
This time we're chatting about Margaret Atwood's 1985 dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale. The book tells the chilling story of Offred, a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead - a totalitarian state where women have no rights, their every move is being watched and a strict dress code is enforced. Offred dresses in red, except for her white "wings", and her main role in life is to bear children for the couple she has been assigned to.
This is a story about a class society with no privacy, extreme censorship and oppression. Women and other "undesirables" are completely stripped of any freedom or pleasure, living a suffocating and hopeless existence. Yet it's also a story about rebellion, the resilience of human beings, and the will to survive no matter what. I thought the author very talented at drawing in the reader from page one. The claustrophobic atmosphere grabbed me by the throat, and the distrust and fear were tangible. I'm sure this isn't a book for everyone, but I do love a good "sci-fi" (if you can call it that) novel that only slowly reveals the history and circumstances of the characters.
I have to say that when I read the book for the first time at age 16, I didn't pay all that much attention to the symbolism of the dress code (cleverly used to dinstinguish between the different societal classes). So engrossed and appalled was I by the bleak world Mrs. Atwood had created. I'm quite curious to hear if you've ever had that happen too, i.e. missing a significant detail or part of a plot line.
This is a multi-layered book that has relevance to present day political, religious and social discussions. But these topics can also be very divisive, so we will keep the discussion to the context of the story in the book and the world Margaret Atwood created. We would like to stay away from any specific parallels to current events and discuss Atwood's ideas in the abstract.
Over to you. Did you enjoy the book? How did you interpret the ending? And what are your thoughts on the epilogue (the chapter called "Historical Notes")?