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Novels to Discover: "The Handmaid's Tale"

by Leigh Hooper about a year ago in literature

"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale

Hello and welcome to Novels to Discover!

Last week featured Brendan Reichs’s YA novel “Nemesis”, but this week Margaret Atwood is taking the stage as I plunge into the world of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, a dystopian novel that was originally published in 1985!

Here’s a synopsis for you:

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one option: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like all dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

If you haven’t heard of “The Handmaid’s Tale” then I’m not sure where you’ve been the last few years. In recent years the book has been turned into a television show, one that a lot of people have fallen in love with. If you’ve heard of the show, or even watched it, but haven’t got around to reading it…now is your time!

“The Handmaid’s Tale” has been a book of topic for A-Level English for quite some time, and after having studied it for my own A-Level, its’ safe to say this book is brilliantly intriguing. The Sunday Times said: “the images of brilliant emptiness are one of the most striking aspects of this novel about totalitarian blindness… the effect is chilling.”

The cover of the novel depicts a few images, a woman and a white dove, a radiation symbol, and fruit falling from a tree. All images relate powerfully to the plot, only in a way you would understand after finishing the novel. I find it incredibly clever how such simple images can evoke such powerful emotions.

The plot centres itself in a first-person narration by Offred. After the United States falls into a military dictatorship, and after environmental radiation effects birth rates, the women who remain fertile are forced to produce children for the “Commanders”, the men of the ruling class. The new regime of Gilead holds traditional Christian ideologies, and soon women’s rights are reduced to nothing. They’re not allowed to read, write or own property or money.

The novel follows Offred’s journey into her third assignment, when her life changes. Two illegal relationships are formed and Offred learns of a rebel group called Mayday. At the end of the novel, Offred is taken away. However, one question remains… was she taken by Mayday, or was she taken by the government “Eyes”?

It’s impossible to explain the plot without wanting to give away all of it’s secrets and plot twists! So, I advise you to go grab this book and start reading! This feminist novel explores themes in which Atwood describes as “speculative fiction” due to the fact misogyny and religion already oppress women within the world today.

Let’s review the protagonist, shall we?

Offred: Although we never learn of her real name, Offred shows that she can both adhere to the rules and break them. She can be persuaded to follow suit within the regime, as within most of the book the opinions of herself are influenced by the misogynistic society.

For example, her opinion towards her body: “I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely. "

Despite that, she also shows rebellious qualities by having illegal relationships. She considers herself a part of Mayday, and when a new Handmaid is introduced Offred is panicked by the fact “she isn’t one of [them]. But she knows.” Offred knows the risk of being a part of Mayday but it’s a risk she’s willing to take.



“The Handmaid’s Tale” has recently been followed by “The Testaments”. If you’re interested in reading these novels then click the link to check out Margaret Atwood’s website at:

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this review and it encourages you to check out this book!

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Happy reading, see you soon!

Leigh Hooper
Leigh Hooper
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Leigh Hooper

A writer in her twenties wanting to share her random knowledge & opinions with the world✨

My Twitter and Instagram handles are: @leighooper

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