Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…
As I mentioned in my March TBR, this book has been on my main TBR for many, many years now. I have the feeling that, in high school, other English classes might have studied it, but I never did. I decided 2014 was the year to finally do it though, and would you look at that? I’ve read it. You’re probably sick of reading this by now, but this is yet another book that I managed to wander into almost completely blind as to what I was in for. I knew it had some vaguely distopian setting, but other than that? Nothing.
I’m going to start with the one niggling thing that I didn’t like. Especially at first, I found it quite hard to determine what was going on because of Offred’s three or four different story arcs that all unfolded simultaneously. The main problem was that I hate not being able to picture the main character clearly (literally anything else can happen as long as I’m sure I know the MC) and I struggled for a lot of the book to picture Offred because I never knew where she was or how old she was supposed to be. Of course there is a clearer way of telling those stories, but I understand that the effect was meant to disorient the reader. It succeeded.
Once I felt more secure in my knowledge of Offred, I really enjoyed the book. The world building was great, and I actually enjoyed the mystery and menace of the Angels and Commanders and whomever else. I felt like the reader was given a really clear picture of what everyday life became, the rules were clear and truly frightening with their literal from-Bible adaptations.