Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I don't really know why but I had some really preconceived ideas about Margaret Atwood. A lot of people describe her as a feminist and I was afraid that her texts would be too much like a feminist statement (yes that old anti-feminist idea of a soured woman who spits her venom)(knowing I'm kinda feminist it's quite stupid I know). So, I was never attracted by her books... till I watched (or in fact binged-watched) the TV show based on the book and I was hooked! Thus, I stop binge-watching before the last episode, went to buy the book and read it before watching the end of the TV show (knowing that the end could be different as there were talks of another season...)

So, as usual, the book and the TV show are not quite the same but I must say that the mood and anxiogenic world are! And the book, THE book!! What a great time I had reading it! The writing is excellent, fluid, pleasant and full of surprises. With just those sentences that punch you, that surprise you and bring something unexpected or on the contrary expected but a lot faster and sharply than you thought. 

Like that: 
Every night when I go to bed I think, In the morning I will wake up in my own house and things will be back the way they were.
It hasn't happened this morning either.
I love the fact that some dialogue are sometimes in Offred's head, mixed with her considerations and thoughts but it's always very clear and coherent. You don't ask yourself "but who is she talking to?" or "is she talking to someone or thinking?" It's really mastered and it gives a different rhythm, a lot more lively that when dialogue and thoughts are separated.   
But watch out, Commander, I tell him in my head. I've got my eye on you. One false move and I'm dead.
Still, it must be hell, to be a man, like that.
It must be just fine.
It must be hell.
It must be very silent.
I put my mouth to the wooden hole. Moira? I whisper.
Is that you? She says.
Yes, I say. Relief goes through me. 
God, do I need a cigarette, says Moira. 
Me too, I say. 
I feel ridiculously happy. 
And I loved these thoughtful sentences
Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. 
Night falls. Or has fallen. Why is it that night falls, instead of rising, like the dawn?

In a nutshell, I really like that book, its writing, its characters so well written, its story, dystopian and so realistic at the same time. 

I was talking about the hyper current subject of the book and a friend of mine was saying that it was not that terrible, that we, as women from western countries, can't complain, that we live in a free and modern society, that it couldn't happen to us... But what does that book talk about? About the place of women in a society ruled by men. Then, of course, we don't live in a country where we can't work, nor have a bank account... but do I need to remember that women's freedom to choose their work or to open an account dates back to 1964 in Quebec and 1965 in France? Not even, just look at what's going on in the USA (and even in Quebec and France now) with all those women who say #meetoo and you'll see that for some, the body of a woman is just an object... 

So, I won't start a feminist debate here but I just want to emphasize the importance of book like The Handmaid's Tale to make us think and become aware that all is not won and everything can be lost. 

As for the story in itself, I must say that I was a bit disappointed by the half-hearted end. There's hope but for Offred it's kinda vague. And I do love a frank ending: it ends well or not but it's just for me. If you love or you're ok with vague ending, you'll love that epilogue! 

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