Fox&Songbird

Books that are truly worth reading

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood

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...

Recommended by Cait

I read 1984 as a teenager which gave me a healthy love of dystopian novels and The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favourite books in this genre. As sales of these two novels have increased since Trump’s election my recommendation also fits in with this trend. I know quite a few people have already read this one but I reckon it’s worth rereading and love Atwood’s writing style in general.

It’s set in the Republic of Gilead, a future version of the United States, where human rights and specifically women’s rights are severally limited. Many women have been rendered infertile by toxins so handmaids are ‘two legged wombs’ kept to bear children for the ruling classes – valued only for their fertility. Narrated by one of these handmaids, Offred (Fred is the Commander who owns her), who still remembers a time from before the Republic, it offers a view of how ideologies take root, how indoctrination works, and how people begin to think certain things are ‘normal’. Focusing on limiting people’s freedoms and controlling women’s bodies combined with an attempted escape to Canada, you might start to see why sales have gone up recently…