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Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale

Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Year: 1985

In my opinion, Margaret Atwood established herself as a brilliant author with Oryx and Crake, published in 2003. Therefore, I hesitated a short while before reading The Handmaid’s Tale, since it is written almost twenty years earlier. Some authors really get the hang of writing after a long time and what if those twenty years were essential? Still, I had heard much good about the novel, so I tried it anyway. My premonitions were not entirely false, but not completely true either.The Handmaid’s Tale is a nice novel, but it is far from being as impressive as Oryx and Crake.

The Handmaid’s Tale takes the form of an account of a woman’s life in a future, dystopian society in which women are valued only for their ability to bear children. Much of the novel is spent describing this hypothetical society and even though there is a plot, it is obviously not the  important bit. The novel consists of a number of different chapters, many of them flashbacks, others taking place “now”. The world thus depicted works on many levels; it is depressing and carefully thought-out, but it is it interesting?

I am not sure, to be honest. The descriptions are good in themselves, but I do not find the society terribly interesting, which means that too much time is spent on something I do not quite enjoy. This is a pity, because it is obvious that the author has put much thought into her creation. Fortunately, there are other things which are genuinely good, such as language and style. The personal reflections feel genuine, they really convey the impression that this is a recording of something that has actually taken place, that the unnamed main character is a real person. Kudos for this; it makes the novel more than worthwhile. However, it is not enough to make it brilliant.

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